Despite the exquisite and picturesque sights, the local population has witnessed decades of hardships. Desertification issues, scarce water and sparse vegetations pose grave threats to the population of the Thar Desert amidst the woes of extreme temperatures and limited employment opportunities. In such despair, when survival becomes the foremost priority, people strive for alternate livelihood avenues to generate a steady source of income and often tend to overlook issues around Education, Health, Child Rights.
Realizing and researching about the decade long hurdles, Urmul Trust and HDFC Parivartan have launched efforts towards aiding the people to explore their true potential and prospects of the region. Under Project Marugandha with continuous interventions 70,000 individuals across 14 villages in 7 gram panchayats were positively impacted since 2019. The team’s vision for sustainable, inclusive growth and a holistic cluster development has enabled infrastructural support, capacity building and support of a range of services for the marginalized sections of the society to achieve nature based solutions facilitating livelihood generation.
To achieve self-reliant holistic transformation in the rural communities, the members are linked with the required knowledge, technology and resources resulting into a well-knit community with increasing capabilities and confidence to organize themselves for collective action
A holistic cluster development with quality services to remotest areas enabled by synergized efforts through exploring the untapped potential of the people and the region and building alternate livelihood avenues eventually facilitated and supported by themselves.
The people of Thar Desert are presented with a range of challenges – desertification issues, unpredictable rainfall and frequent droughts accumulating to a situation where the communities are devoid of income generation, food security with limited prospects for agriculture. Despite these hardships, the region is known for the exquisite weaving and sewing techniques which are inherent to the desert community. Urmul Trust through continuous interventions is adopting a multi pronged approach to catalyze these opportunities for ideating and developing drought proof livelihood options.
Amongst the rural communities of Thar Desert, camel herding forms the core of traditional occupation. Over the years, camels have shown resilience to the extreme temperatures and overcame the natural calamities. However, in recent times, there is a steady decline of this animal especially due to the state’s decision to ban the trade and slaughter of camels. This measure has devastated the minimal income generated by them. Towards facilitating the camel herders, Urmul Trust is launching its interventions focused around community mobilisation, capacity building and infrastructural support to build a robust value chain facilitating steady income for the camel herders. Under this intervention, the project team spearheaded efforts to upscale camel wool production, marketing and made infrastructural changes to build a 1000L Bulk milk chiller at collection unit to facilitate camel based enterprises for camel milk.
Amidst the constant battles for survival and sustenance; education, WASH facilities, child rights are often overlooked in the Thar Desert resulting to a surrounding that is vulnerable to communicable diseases, illness, illiteracy and child abuse. However, Urmul Trust holds education at the topmost layer of the priority pyramid and believes that for a society to progress it is essential to ensure delivery of quality services in the remotest rural areas. Therefore, the interventions have focused on up-skilling the teachers, building last-mile connectivity of quality education, raising consciousness about WASH facilities and protection of child rights.
The extreme climatic conditions not only affect the farm yield but also hinder opportunities for alternative livelihood options. However, the region is yet to be explored for its untapped beauty. The desert landscape presents prospectively for ecotourism as an alternative non-farm livelihood avenue. Urmul Trust through this intervention is building, enhancing capacities and developing infrastructures for an ecotourism enterprise through nature based solutions to generate a supplementary income in the households resulting in the creation of green employment opportunities in villages.
The predominant challenge of limited resources in the Thar Desert is aggravated with the onset of contemporary global problems like desertification, climate change. Apart from these hardships, issues like minimal groundwater, high salinity in the water presents grave threats around water security. As a result, people often struggle for water and travel miles to fetch water from rain-fed water reservoirs. Therefore, Urmul Trust is launching intervention to address the issue of resource depletion through spreading awareness about resource conservation and development, management of natural resources.
Medical facilities are distributed far apart from one another. It is often that one has to cover a distance of more than 50kms for adequate medical services. The problem exacerbates as the remote areas of Thar Desert is burdened with mobility challenges and communication barriers. On the other hand, private medical services are exorbitantly high. Towards a holistic vision of improving health, Urmul Trust is facilitating knowledge and technical support for improving health, menstrual hygiene, nutrition and better access to healthcare.
During a field visit in Pokhran, one of the cluster coordinators received a call from a camel herder in Khetolai. It was found out that a camel was injured due to a road accident. Our team immediately contacted the district animal veteran and reached the spot with him.
On reaching, it was found out that the left limb of the camel was injured and required immediate treatment. The veteran started treating the camel and provided the necessary medicines for pain relief. Sukhram, the owner of the camel was thankful to the veteran and project team for their immediate response. This incident was later covered by local media. To address these problems, the Marugandha team has conducted 14 animal camps and treated 355 animals in the area.
“I was really worried when I saw my camel with pain and blood lying on the road. I felt helpless and called the Marugandha team. They arrived here immediately and saved my camel. It has been 2 months since that incident, now it can graze. I am really thankful to Marugandha team for their support and help”
Towards addressing the challenges of limited employment opportunities, HDFC bank and Urmul trust are committed to develop alternate livelihood avenues for the households which will generate a steady source of income and arrest the problem of poverty.
Alaine and Claudine who were accommodated in Bhanwari Devi’s tourist stay tells us that they had an authentic experience. They also added that they are thankful to the guides and the coordinators for this trip. Through this trip, they were a part of the local experience – starting from cooking, recreational activities with the children, yoga and even taught how to milk goats.
“Without any opportunity for agriculture, we often face challenges to generate a steady source of income, but we are grateful to Marugandha Team for developing an eco-tourist stay. We have already accommodated a few guests and we don’t have to worry anymore about an income. Through this venture, we also get to know about new cultures while we try to give them an authentic desert experience. Moving forward we want to accommodate more guests and give them a wholesome experience”
SMILE Programe is an initiative launched by Rajasthan Education Department to facilitate students to learn from home during lock down period.
The lockdown has halted education procedures for many. Towards circumventing this challenge and facilitating the youth to pursue education HDFC Bank and URMUL Trust has participated in the Smile Programme.The project team has launched “Promotion of Education in 8 villages while keeping in mind the COVID-19 guidelines. Through this initiative, the project team is breaking barriers to provide quality education to the youth even during lockdown.
“At the time of COVID 19 the schools were closed and I was not able to study at home. But Marugandha team started providing us classes around the common space of the village where the entire students are gathered and provided education. This helps us to study and also meet my friends at the time of lockdown. The team taught us about the smile program and WASH facilities and connected us through what apps to study our regular course. Now I will make sure that all my family members wash their hands before eating.”
On setting up the health camps under Marugandha Programme, the team received a lot of queries and patients who were undergoing health problems. Similarly, Kapu Devi a resident of Odhaniya was facing back problems for a few months. Despite visiting the govt medical facilities, she was not cured and reached out to us. The project team immediately responded to her and visited her house with doctors to provide the necessary medical assistance for her fast recovery.
“Due to my backpain, my family was facing a lot of issues. Since, I was in bed rest for months; I couldn’t contribute to household work. We even went to a government hospital but couldn’t receive a good treatment. However, after the Marugandha Team has set up health camps, my son went to speak to them. The team with doctors came to our house and provided me with medicines, good treatment and spoke to me about traditional methods like hot water bag. We are thankful for the assistance provided to us by the Marugandha team. Now I am able to contribute to the household and also work in the farm.”
Under the HRDP Marugandha programme, Urmul Trust had worked on the revival of five ponds in That, Chacha, Badli Nathushar, Kelawa and Odhaniya village in Pokaran, Jaisalmer district. The onset of good monsoon has also helped solve the water crisis of these villages.
These model ponds today, filled with water sufficient to fulfil the water requirements of 10 nearby villages for a whole year. The community members are excited and look forward to our continued efforts towards holistic development of the region.
“We are dependent on this pond. Almost 10-12 villages come here to fetch water with their cattles and camels. But due to the low water quality and limited water resources, we face a lot of challenges. When the Marugandha Team conducted a survey, we conveyed that reviving this pond is the first and foremost need and soon Urmul Team and HDFC Parivartan delivered with impressive results. Now, we neither have to buy water nor worry about water scarcity. This is the first time in 35 years that we had ample amount of water supply.”
The village of Suganpura, Pokharan, is known for traditional craft of applique and Greenland in Thar. Kamala Devi is one of those who are trying to conserve this art and her husband is supportive of her pursuing this venture. Hailing from a good educational background, she was able to grasp an entrepreneurship mindset with the guidance provided by the Marugandha team of URMUL Trust supported by HDFC bank Parivartan.
“I like creative craft, mostly sewing, crochet and knitting but in these trainings provided by HDFC bank through URMUL trust in our village have given immense knowledge on applique and patchwork. In these training sessions, I learnt cutting, pasting and most importantly creativity through these craft techniques and hope to conserve the crafts of my region. Recently in product development training, individually we got square paths to develop our product and we also got our first order with the help of the project team. I am really happy with the progress I made in these training sessions and I would like to thank HDFC bank and Urmul trust.”