Over the twenty-eight years, Urmul has innovated, designed and demonstrated various vital and successful models in diverse developmental themes, to name a few – barefoot doctors, Non-formal education centers, Residential education camps to bridge education for adolescents, long term constructive campaigns for gender equality, Child Rights and Livelihoods. Urmul led non-farm livelihood initiatives in this region are now full-fledged enterprises valuing over 20+ crores INR and successfully ensuring sustained income to thousands of people in deserts of Rajasthan at their homes. While working with communities in Thar, Urmul’s experiences have been vibrant:
Urmul has trained and supported community health workers, as a response to community needs for basic health services. These women have facilitated the organisation of the community, motivated participation and increased ownership and accountability of the people towards health care and availability of services. Starting with direct delivery of services in the remotest regions of the desert to organising medical camps, Urmul has now consciously moved towards an advocacy based approach. It raises awareness and trains communities in health concerns.
Urmul has been facilitating educational programmes in the region. Over the years more than 20000 girls – have been educated to class 8th or 10th just within the duration of six months by the innovative bridge course programme called Balika Shivir. By innovating various models in education like Shiksha Karmi, Marushalas (desert schools), Balika Shivirs (residential girls bridge education camps) and Bal and Kishori Prerna Manchs (youth forums), Urmul has been working towards raising education levels in the village as well as improving the quality of education provided and its accessibility and now is already engaged in working with the second and at some places the third generations in the villages. This way a steady generational change is on its way because of Urmul’s sustained engagement.
Urmul’s engagement with early childhood initiatives is over two-decade old. It has been the implementing agency of the ICDS programme in the Kolayat block of Bikaner since 1991. This helps integrate efforts at various levels. CHWs along with the Anganwadi workers, youth forums -Kishori Prerna Manchs & Bal Manchs, Prerak Dals, VHSCs, SMCs, and SHGs, help to strengthen endeavours with the villages. It works with the children and the communities directly through various interventions in education, health and livelihoods to improve the care provided to children
With an understanding that no other intervention can be successful until the community achieves financial security, Urmul has endeavoured towards improving livelihood opportunities in the region. It has innovated various farm based and non-farm based interventions through a Self-help group model and has organised the communities’ most marginalised and deprived to initiate solutions.
In as early as 1990s, Urmul, with support from Command Area Development project and Border Area Development Plan, piloted a unique water channels covering project, resulting in preventing the blocking of the distributaries of IGNP canal by sand. Till date, after over 20 years, the covered minors (distributaries) are intact and providing the water till the end points without any siltation or blockage. Large scale plantation projects have also resulted in tremendous success and improving the landscapes in the remotest parts.
Urmul has also taken up the cattle breed improvement projects in partnership with NDDB where scientific approaches are clubbed with community mobilisation and knowledge integration for breed improvement of Rathi breed of cow. In partnership with Heifer International Urmul has also engaged in Goat breeding and improvement initiatives. Over 5000 thousands goats have been distributed to the poorest of the poor in the region leading to an assured income and basic nutrition to these families. These families have also integrated with SHGs and developing their own micro-credit mechanisms at the village level.
Given the low probabilities of agriculture in the region, many families depend on various non-farm activities for livelihood – embroidery, weaving etc. It has innovated various programmes in trainings, organising and creating finance and market linkages for the communities. Urmul began with first organising the marginalised and exploited community of weavers in the region. It facilitated in training them in latest dyeing and loom techniques to better their products. It motivated them into organising themselves into a registered society, working together to better their traditional art and also guiding their own development progress. Similarly, through its income generation programme, it has organised the women artisans in the region, trained and honed their traditional art of embroidery, created better-received designs and created market linkages for them. In the recent years, it has facilitated the formation of a marketing company and a producer’s company for these women. Through these, the women and the weavers extend their art to the market and substantiate their household incomes.