About Marugandha

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.

Aim

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

Vision

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 Approach

In order to bring about an all-round development, it was necessary to create sustainable and healthy relations between the community members and the natural resources that they rely on for sustenance. The most pressing needs of the community – water, sanitation, hygiene, healthcare, education, dying livelihoods, etc., had to be addressed simultaneously.

The best-fit opportunity lay in adopting the principles of a circular economy that integrated livelihoods with the desert ecology and created self-sufficiency for the communities of the region. With these principles in mind, Marugandha envisioned to undertake improvement in Agriculture and Water Resources, Health and Nutrition, Education and Financial Inclusion and Skills Development.

Crafts (Weaving and reviving alternate livelihood avenues)

The heritage of the region has been passed on to generations through varied handicrafts. The locals through their skills and talents have captured intricately designed and beautiful hand-crafted items. Jaisalmer is home to artisans who are extremely skilled in warp and weft, and applique.

Urmul with the aid of the community understood that by harnessing the traditional skills of the community, handicrafts could be developed that would ensure a steady source of livelihood. With the vision of socially and financially aiding the communities, Urmul launched specific interventions. They focused on the capacity building of the artisans and providing significant infrastructure support. Experience in the Thar has taught us that a society that leaves behind its women would never be able to succeed. Through programme interventions under Marugandha, key activities were charted under the craft vertical to speed towards the goal of creating self-reliant women that reflect progress with each step

Key Interventions

  • Capacity-building measures : Skill trainings and Refresher trainings
  • Infrastructure support: Development of 5 craft centers to create a craft value chain ecosystem
  • Market showcase: Marketing and branding of artisans products.
  • Strengthening the forward linkages: Providing a sustainable value chain model and handholding till phaseout.
  • 5

    Villages

  • 5

    Craft centres,

  • 176

    Artisans

  • 20

    Artisans Suganpura (Patching and Applique work)

  • 49

    Artisans Thaat (Weaving)

  • 42

    Artisans Gomat (Patching and applique work)

  • 37

    Artisans Chacha (Stitching)

  • 28

    Artisans Odhaniya (Quality check & packaging)

Camel (Saving the Ship of the Desert)

The camels have enjoyed high popularity and demand amongst the herding communities of Rajasthan for its resilience to the climate of the region and the functions it has played. It is a unique feature of the Thar desert. Their interdependence with community and living has meant special care and utility for the animal.

Over the years, however, there has been a significant decline in the population of this animal – a crucial component of desert living and the overall ecology of the region. In 2014, in a well-meaning gesture, the government declared camel as the state animal to prevent its slaughter, trade, and illegal transportation. However, this measure destroyed whatever little income the herders could earn from their camels. in order to contain the decline of camels in the region and open an alternative stream of livelihood for the significantly marginalized communities rearing these animals, a significant institutional mobilization under Marugandha was undertaken in 2019-2020.

Under the Programme spearheaded by HDFC Parivartan, Urmul has furthered the agenda of enhancing alternative livelihoods and growth ecosystems for camels and herders. This will develop new employment opportunities for the herding community. The interventions focused on building a camel milk collection centre and working towards mobilizing, training and institutionalizing the camel herders towards a livelihood mechanism.

Key Interventions

  • Community mobilisation: Through dialogues and meetings interaction with 570 herders from 14 villages. Formation of camel herders federation with 240 camel herders.
  • Capacity building: Trainings of 240 camel herders towards camel conservation and creating camel milk value chain
  • Infrastructure: Setup of Camel milk Bulk milk cooler in Gangaram ki Dhani for collection of milk from identified 100 camel herders in 5 villages and set up a camel milk processing unit with 2000L of milk capacity to generate income for camel herders.
  • 1

    Federation formed

  • 240

    Camel herders

  • 17,672

    Camels

  • 60

    Health camps held

  • 64,256

    Animals treated

  • 3

    collection units ( Pokaran, Gangaram ki Dhani, Nai Guddi)

  • 1 2500L

    Bulk Milk Chiller

  • 1

    Camel café along Jaisalmer highway

  • Active supply in Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur districts

Education (Moving Up the Ladder)

Urmul has always believed in ensuring equality through provisioning of good education to the remotest of rural areas. Western Rajasthan still lags far behind in ensuring quality education for the youth of the place. The schools of the programme villages surrounding Pokaran suffer from high absenteeism and dropout rates with literacy rates and children acquiring primary education on a rapid decline. The existing schools are unable to provide adequate learning opportunities for children which discourages them from attending school and pushes them toward helping out with household or farm chores instead. According to a needs-assessment survey, 78% children admitted not having computer skills and children desired that a model school have technology-enabled learning along with qualified teachers and improve basic facilities at school including hygienic toilets and clean water for consumption. It was deemed necessary to address the gaps underlying the education system for children in the villages surrounding Pokaran.

With children being a primary target group of Marugandha, Urmul and HDFC launched initiatives to increase interest in learning for children and ensure the children in the programme areas achieve class appropriate learning levels in 14 villages. Parents were also looped in through awareness initiatives for a 360 ° impact.

Through Marugandha, three schools in Pokaran have undergone complete complex renovation. Classrooms have been refurbished, libraries have been equipped with new books and storage and seating facilities and science laboratories have been stocked with new apparatuses. Children have been regularly issuing and reading these books.

Bridge courses were rolled out to help drop-out children catch up with lost years of education and re-enrol into regular schools in age-appropriate classes. The children were taught to read and write subjects like Hindi and Mathematics. A second chance at learning has instilled hope in the students and boosted their confidence and interaction skills. Most children exhibited an increased interest in learning, playing and even looking after their personal hygiene after the completion of the bridge course.

Modern Anganwadi Centres: Five model anganwadi centres have been renovated to adopt visual-learning methods. Distribution of playing toys and sports materials and refurbishing the centres with interesting graphics and new management policies have significantly increased the attendance of children and also ensured staff are more readily available for the children when needed.

Key Interventions

  • Generating Awareness and Capacity Building<

    • Collaboration in School Functioning: Realizing how essential it is that parents are continuously aware of and contributing to the school activities of their children. The team encouraged regular dialogues with the community through the establishment of 14 School Management Committees in the programme villages.
    • Kishori Balika Samooh: Under this vertical activities focused on increasing awareness around the issues of child rights such as child marriage, girl child education, menstrual hygiene, the importance of sports etc. 268 girls from ages 11 to 18 years were identified and were encouraged to organize themselves into groups. These groups were a platform wherein the children could be sensitized about their rights and be motivated to ensure their voices are heard.
    • Child Rights: Through training on how to make sustainable sanitary pads at home, 268 girls were made aware about their rights under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, good and bad touch, gender roles and were motivated to question gender stereotypes.
  • Bridging the gap

    • 300 children were encouraged through continuous dialogues to continue their formal education. With the support of the team they re-enrolled and began regularly attending classes.
    • A six months long bridge course was introduced for 35 children. The children became comfortable with foundation concepts and did not face any difficulty when they enrolled again in schools.
    • In addition, 7 girl drop-outs were motivated and enrolled for class 10 examinations. These girls through continuous dialogues were provided with the necessary guidance for their exams.
  • Infrastructure Support

    • To ensure that students have access to safe and secured water, water reservoirs schools were repaired. These water reservoirs ensured water safety and security to over 700 students.
    • Incinerator chambers were built in 2 schools so that they could cater to the needs of the girls and ensure a safe disposal of sanitary napkins.
  • Holistic Interactive Learning

    • Access to quality sports equipment and learning materials
    • Equipment for sports such as badminton, cricket, handball, among others was distributed in ensuring the students have access to good equipment and remain motivated to actively participate in games. 1900 informative books on varied themes were distributed in schools. A total of 3,000 students were able to access those books.
    • Leveraging ICT for a Model School
    • Understanding the importance of Information and Communications Technology in improving learning outcomes, a model school was developed in Kelawa village. There were 357 students enrolled from classes one to ten. In addition, the existing computers of a school were repaired and the students had started using them. The aim was to ensure that a motivating and conducive environment for interactive learning is developed.
  • 702

    Drop-out children re-enrolled

  • 03

    Model schools catering to 1100 students

  • 17

    Libraries equipped with magazines and reading books

  • 200

    Sports equipment distributed

  • 72

    Awareness camps for promoting health, hygiene and digital education

Eco – Tourism (A Community-Led and Community System Tourism Initiative)

Ecotourism programmes are beneficial for achieving natural resource conservation and improved livelihoods of host communities. For rural communities, whose main sources of livelihood are natural resources such as forests, the Programme provides a more sustainable way of managing these natural resources by fostering conservation through the involvement of local communities, which in turn provides economic incentives to the communities.

Efforts were launched with the vision to create a village-level community-based ecotourism enterprise across the Programme areas. Four villages- That, Gomat, Chacha and Khetolai were identified to be part of the Pokaran cluster. Infrastructure upgrading work has been achieved.

Out of the 40 households trained and mapped, 15 households were identified and trained, contributing to 20 homestay rooms in the inventory. In 2019-2020, nine households across four villages were refurbished to host tourists and function as community-based ecotourism enterprises. Basic needs like toilet facilities, wash basins, water tanks and drinking water provisions have been developed. Gaps in skills of hosting eco-tourists have been addressed through multiple customised training sessions on cooking, hospitality and ledger-keeping. Local theatre groups are also hired and trained to perform for the guests. Piloting of tourism activities have led to an additional household income of INR 6000 per household.

Key Interventions

  • 25 family members from 9 families were given hospitality training. They were taught on how to respond to the needs and concerns of their guests.
  • Members from the 9 families were trained in cooking by a Master trainer from Jaisalmer. This was to ensure that the hosts are sensitive to the varied culinary tastes of their guests.
  • 9 families were supported with financial aid for developing infrastructure such as toilet facilities such as wash basins, water tanks among others.
  • A theatre group has been hired and trained for performing for the guests at these homestays. The group has even performed in front of the members of the villages in programme areas to encourage them to support initiatives under Marugandha.
  • 10

    TOTAL HOUSEHOLDS REACHED

  • 12

    CAPACITY BUILDING TRAININGS

Natural Resource Management (Nature Based solutions for sustainable growth)

Immediate interventions on management of water and all other resources dependent on it was deemed crucial to achieving sustainable development of the desert communities. Under Marugandha, revival of multiple traditional water sources and storage structures was done. To fully reap the benefits of increased access to water at both household and community level, input support was provided to boost agriculture, livestock rearing and hygienic sanitation across households, schools and community centers.

Rainwater Harvesting and Storage

Tanka: 118 new tanks were constructed and 62 old tanks repaired and retrofitted with rainwater harvesting facilities. More availability of water has increased water security and autonomy. Households have more ownership and are now less dependent on others’ water properties. Water conflicts and stress during the dry season when water levels are low have decreased. More water has ensured better sanitation and hygiene. Toilets and washrooms that were once defunct are now being used regularly. This has also reduced open defecation by family members. Handwashing and hygiene have improved as a result. Beneficiaries now wash hands more often, take bath regularly and keep their toilets and houses cleaner. Time spent on fetching water is now better utilised for other activities. Children who were bound to spend time fetching water or going out for defecation are now using their time for studying and playing. More water has made household chores such as cooking and washing utensils easier for women. Surplus water is now used for additional chores such as growing vegetables and crops and tending to livestock and sick animals that require more water are able to recover quickly. 289 community members were employed for tank construction and repair through NREGA and provided with a steady source of income for 73 days during the COVID-19 lockdown when unemployment was high

Nadi: Community and Panchayat leaders came together to increase storage capacity of five ponds that would cater to the needs of five villages. Desilting and renovation were undertaken at these water bodies under the supervision and management of Jal Prabandhan Committees. 70% of the financial costs for renovation were borne by the community members and the Gram Panchayat. Water bodies can now collectively store an additional 10, 00, 00, 000 litre of water. Prolonged availability of water even during lean season is catering to the water needs of livestock animals and communities from 10 villages around the year. Increased groundwater recharging increases the level of water table in the aquifers. Water is now accessible at a lower depth than before. Vegetation around the reservoirs has increased with more amphibians and avifauna using the lake as their habitat. This has boosted conservation of local biodiversity and also improved the aesthetic and touristic value of the region.

  • 5

    Water reservoirs (talaab) revived

  • Water ensured for 15,000 livestock animals and 1300 households

  • INR 7,52,400

    Income generated by community members

  • 118

    New tanks constructed and 62 old tanks renovated

  • 27

    Lakh litres of water stored for 180 families

  • INR 10,74,000

    Saved on water tankers

Health (improving Access to Better Care)

Health care facilities in western Rajasthan are sparsely located and cater to settlements across large areas. Often under-staffed and ill-equipped, block-level health care centres are unable to provide specialised diagnosis or treatments. Access to affordable and quality healthcare is limited. Awareness and know-how about basic maternal and child health including proper management of anaemia, menstruation, malnutrition, etc., are extremely low. Health being an underlying denominator of social growth, it was deemed necessary to roll out multi-pronged initiatives to improve overall healthcare and nutrition status of both the community and its livestock in the programme location

Key interventions

  • General Health Camps for community : 19 general health camps for women and girls in the 14 programme villages were conducted. Through the course of the camps the community were provided healthcare support for major diseases in the region through diagnosis and tests including anemia, asthma, allergies including general fever, flu and cold. Free of cost medicines were also distributed to the patients. 1504 patients in Pokaran block were reached through these camps.
  • Training on Menstrual Hygiene : With 39% of the girls in the needs assessment reported that they do not use sanitary pads and they remain at the risk of being infected. Through training on how to make sustainable sanitary pads at home, the team focused on ensuring that every girl gets access to a safe and steady source of sanitary napkins. 2 training sessions with adolescent girls to train them on sewing sanitary napkins at home and on usage and disposal of these napkins were conducted.
  • Installation of Sanitary Napkin Unit : There were inconsistent and unsafe methods of sanitary pad disposal amongst adolescent girls. To systemise the same and lessen the amount of waste generation, under the programme 2 sanitary napkin disposal units were installed in the government schools of Kelawa and Chacha.
  • Improving nutrition and livelihood opportunities through adoption of kitchen gardening practices
  • Kitchen gardens with 150 families were set-up. Seeds for vegetables such as spinach, carrot, and cabbage were distributed. The families were taught kitchen gardening practices. In addition, 50 orchards with fruit saplings such as berry, gunda, and pomegranate among others were set-up. This was done to ensure the families were able to secure good nutrition.
  • Model Anganwadi Development : To lay a strong foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the children in the region, interventions focused on improving the infrastructure and capacities of anganwadis in the program areas. 4 Anganwadi centres were renovated. The Anganwadi centres in Chacha, Khetolai, Badali Manda and That villages were painted with informative quotes, images, people and scenarios. Anganwadi workers, helpers, sathis, ASHA sahyogini on issues around nutrition, health and WASH to ensure quality care of the kids attending these centres. Training of 12 Anganwadi workers catering to 150 children were organised to inspire children and their families to maintain a clean, hygienic and safe environment.
  • Community Awareness programme on Health & Hygiene : Under this vertical activities focused on increasing awareness around the issues of child rights such as child marriage, girl child education, menstrual hygiene, the importance of sports etc. Girls from ages 11 to 18 years were identified and were encouraged to organise themselves into groups. These groups were a platform wherein the children could be sensitised about their rights and be motivated to ensure their voices are heard.
  • Awareness through SHG Meetings : In the project area, discussions within Self Help Group members on hygiene practices, female health issues, use of sanitary napkins and infant care were initiated.

The interventions ensured that not only infrastructure support was provided to the families but the families were made aware of how they could think about the health of their family members in the long-run. The activities undertaken ensured that the family pays special attention to the health of the women and girls.

  • 23,266

    Direct beneficiaries from 14 village

  • Distributed Spinach, Carrot, Cabbage, berry, gunda and pomegranate seeds

  • 40

    Animal health camps

  • 34, 256

    Animals treated ( camels, cows, goats, sheep and deer)

  • 32

    Community health camps; 2439 patients treated

  • Effective control of Camel mange in the region

Waste Management

Rural areas with increasing settlement and populations, are facing new challenges in effectively managing copious amounts of waste. What would waste-free villages look like in India? Project Marugandha envisioned to develop one gram panchayat as the model for a ‘Waste-Free Panchayat’ and started initiatives to address both organic and inorganic waste in village Khetolai

  • A series of awareness sessions have been held with the government officials, Panchayat representatives and School Management Committee members across 14 villages. Increased awareness and know-how of waste management models and techniques have encouraged officials to adopt these practices within their own jurisdictions and resulted in cleaner villages.
  • In order to effectively use animal waste and turn it into usable energy and organic fertiliser, a biogas plant and cow log dung machines have been set up at Khetolai and Chacha. 14 Self-Help Groups have been formed and linked to the bank to commercially produce and sell composted manure, slurry and cow log dungs from the biogas plant and vermicompost pit. Composted manure is being packaged and sold at INR 6/kg to nearby schools and nurseries. Orchard plantations are also sourcing manure from the families making vermicompost. Recycling and value-addition of dung has led to additional income for families and also reduced dung waste within these villages.
  • 100 trained representatives or ‘Swachhta Mitras’ are closely monitoring the progress of the dung value chain interventions.
  • 45

    Awareness sessions

  • 14

    Villages

  • 5000

    PRI and SMC members reached

  • 306

    kitchen gardens set-up

  • 208

    kitchen gardens active seasonally

  • 46800

    Litres of waste water reused in kitchen gardens

  • 40

    Tonnes of organic waste recycled into value-added products annually

  • 3000

    Cloth bags of 5L capacity reduced use of 9000 plastic bags

Marugandha Team

Success
Stories

  • 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”

    Sukharam, camel herder

  • 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”

    Bhanwari Devi, Thaat Village

  • 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.”

    Madina, 9th standard, Chacha village

  • 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.”

    Kapu Devi, Odhaniya

  • 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.”

    Gaji Khan, resident of Kelawa

  • 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.”

    Kamala Devi, Suganpura