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An Innovative Lighthouse Makes Pastoralism More Sustainable

URMUL Seemant Samiti

The north Indian desert state of Rajasthan is home to a large number of pastoralists. Pastoralism is an ancient profession but modern lifestyles have seen it diminish over the years. It is important to preserve pastoralism not only because it provides livelihood to thousands of people, but also plays a significant role in conserving the environment and protecting biodiversity. 


Based in this region, Urmul Seemant Samiti’s primary goal is to create opportunities for rural communities in remote areas where pastoralism exists. The organisation acts as a bridge between pastoralists and larger markets. 


Pastoralists like Kayamdeen have benefited from the Common Facility Centres (CFCs) that have been set up by the NGO. The CFCs act as a lighthouse for pastoralists, providing them with a physical location where they can access services for their cattle like vaccinations and medicine, shearing equipment, water etc, as well as a safe space for them to rest and sell their ware. 


Apart from availing services for their cattle, pastoralists can also sell the wool that they shear at the same place. This means that they find a ready market for the wool, which usually gets wasted because of the lack of places where it can be sold. As a result of the CFCs the pastoralists have benefited from community organisation, technology development, and market creation. Urmul works closely with the pastoralist communities in the area to create a fair price market for pastoral fibres and to explore their applications in the built environment, insulation, and packaging. 


Marketing pastoral products like wool, milk, and meat is not easy. To address this, Urmul works on organising the back end of the nomadic pastoralist context. They work with pastoralists, both men and women, local artisanal communities, weavers, carpenters, and youth to enhance their skills and put market linkages into place. The objective is to create a sustainable and aspirational livelihood context. 


Kayamdeen has been availing services from CFCs for the past two years. He takes his cattle to the CFC often and tells others around him to do the same. He has seen a marked difference in how things were before the CFCs were established.


With such progress to support their profession, Kayamdeen feels confident that the future of pastoralism is bright. Whereas he earlier thought that his children might have to find an alternative source of income or even move away to an urban area, he is now happy if his children would continue this ancient profession while continuing to earn an adequate income to have a comfortable lifestyle.

“ We have been pastoralists for generations. But things have changed for the better in the recent past. Now I feel that our dying profession might be getting a new lease on life ” shares Kayamdeen, a pastoralist based in Narayanpura in the Bikaner district of Rajasthan.

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