Bespoke Challenges – Bespoke Solutions – Bespoke Being

As the Thar sets to rise from the freezing winters to warming winds, we at Desert Resource Centre and Selco Foundation along with the desert communities invite you to the 3rd edition of Maru Manthan on February 9th and 10th 2024 in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

We come together to listen deep to the land and the people narrate the stories of resilience and nature based solutions; stories of challenges deepening and complexed. Together, we celebrate not just the dialogue and action, but the very spirit of the desert.

An annual forum to reflect and advance the desert land, life & living, Maru Manthan is a vision to celebrate the desert’s unique and enduring beauty.

The year 2024 marks the UN International Year of Camelids, a global chorus honouring these extraordinary creatures and the pastoral odyssey that embodies the Thar’s soul.

A Pastoralist in Rajasthan, “If we earned from our animals, why wouldn’t we want to keep them, why wouldn’t our grandchildren? let’s stop our animals, our lands from disappearing.”

These words echo through the dunes, urging us to act. To build a deeper contextual understanding of the issues and help build solutions. The forum will host shared experiences of policy makers, civil society representatives, academicians, artists, explorers as well as community members from the remote hamlets of Rajasthan.

Maru Manthan extends an invitation to:

  • Demonstrations of Pastoral Production Systems :
    Experience the diverse potential of desert bioregion-based production systems, inculding camel milk and natural fibres
  • Panel Discussions :
    Ignite dialogues around climate change, developmental paradoxes and community aspirations
  • Photo Exhibition :
    Witness a captivating photo exhibition narrating pastoral stories
  • Solution Showcase :
    Meet social innovators, driving systemic innovations for desert communities from Decentralised Renewable Energy powered milking machines to community commons management practices

Your presence at Maru Manthan 2024 is more than just attending a forum – it’s joining a movement. Let us together join the desert communities – their pastoral practices, agro-ecological wisdom and traditional-knowledge to foster a thriving and resilient desert bioregion.

Maheshwari Haveli, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
February 9 – 10, 2024

Why Maru Manthan

Desert bioregions, with their intricate value chains and bio-socio-cultural tapestries, offer compelling evidence of human resilience in the face of aridity. Yet, across landscapes like Rajasthan, Ladakh, and Gujarat’s deserts, a sense of disenfranchisement persists. This is not simply an issue of geography, but of a system that overlooks the boundless potential hidden within the dunes. While challenges abound, from knowledge gaps to limited access to finance, and lack of support for implementing innovations – the solutions lie not in pronouncements from afar, but in harnessing the ingenuity of the communities themselves-devising the solutions alongside the communities.

Starting in 2021, Maru Manthan is imagined as a multi-actor forum to host processes and dialogues responding to the systemic challenges 

desert bioregion face and to facilitate the actualisation of their potential. By fostering resilience and innovations through Partnerships, Knowledge, Investments and Technologies, Maru Manthan is committed to working in deserts bioregions, across the globe.

It has served as a vibrant tapestry woven from the voices of desert communities, researchers, policymakers, and artists. We gather to listen, to learn, and to ignite action for a thriving and resilient desert bioregion. The previous editions of Maru Manthan saw participation from diverse stakeholders including FAO, National Rainfed Area Authority – Government of India, Department of Animal Husbandry – Government of Rajasthan; collectives like Vikalp Sangam, Herders Associations; and various organisations from diverse sectors.

Maru Dialogues

Desert ecosystems, with their nature-based solutions and bio-socio-cultural protocols, are going through a paradigm shift, globally. However, their viability is increasingly at risk given the lack of deeper synthesis and modelling of transition impact.

Community centric dialogues for policy-people bridging, innovations showcase and p2p learning are challenges usually exacerbated due to the tyranny of distance. Maru Manthan dialogues is an attempt to bridge this gap. We go directly to communities, sit and deep listen to them in their own setting! For us, it is an important instrument to dismantle the knowledge system bottlenecks that stifle vibrancy and inclusivity in decision-making and knowledge flows.

We envision a desert ablaze with the spark of innovation, where vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems nourish the dreams of youth. Imagine a future where knowledge sparks ignite with generational wisdom synthesized by advanced research. A future where instead of exodus, the desert youth become guardians of their lands, where technology and social innovation liberate the minds from mundane tasks.

Towards this, we host 5 community centric panel dialogues covering two key tracks this year.

  • Futureability of Desert Pastoralism: Probable & Certains
  • Innovations for Desert Production Systems

Celebration of International Year of Camelids 2024

As the world celebrates the UN International Year of Camelids in 2024, Maru Manthan shines a spotlight on these extraordinary creatures, the lifeblood of desert communities. This focus reflects our conviction that empowering cameldependent communities is vital to the vibrancy of desert bioregions. We celebrate the camel cultures, production systems and the alternative livelihoods pathway based on camel milk fibre and the draught power of the camel.

At the heart of this celebration lies a powerful alliance: SELCO Foundation, a champion of sustainable energy solutions, and Desert Resource Centre, the people for deserts. Together, they have nurtured the inception of Bahula Naturals, a social enterprise powered by the quiet grit of camel pastoralists. This journey, from harnessing renewable energy to crafting camel milk products, stands as a testament to the transformative power of innovation in the desert. Bahula Naturals has been working closely with camel pastoralists to create a more equitable and sustainable future in Thar Deserts, envisioning itself to be the first of its kind net-zero dairy.

This is an opportunity to amplify the voices of pastoralists, often marginalized and overlooked, and to garner support in investments, policies and market creation for camel pastoralists

Launch of Desert Alliance

Desert bioregions are inherently complex, characterised by harsh living conditions, remoteness and marred with frequent and critical disruptions. This perpetual state of pressure strains desert life and exerts enormous pressure on production systems, particularly ‘Commons’ (Water & land Commons) powered agrifood systems.

Robustly evolved, these systems sustained the life & living and enriched the socio-cultural tapestry of resilience. However, the past three decades of developmental transitions have compromised the desert’s compactness and resilience. This has caused a deep dent in the production and consumption patterns predominantly based on rainfed and pastoral practices.

Stakeholders across the deserts are attempting to reverse or prevent this damage, or build regenerative paradigms through programmes, innovations, and policy enhancements. However, there are challenges across- implementation, knowledge base, domain expertise, bioregional networks and technology appropriation dampen the ecosystem for resilient production systems.

The Desert Alliance stands poised to respond to these challenges through an ecosystem approach, accelerating enablers like champions, innovations, localised models and impactful policies. Its key focus verticals include Partnerships, Knowledge, Investments, Technologies. Going forward, the aim is to evolve this meta-institutional instrument into a global alliance climate-resilient solutions and approached, institutionalizing multipliers for broader impact.

Desert Futures Roundtable

Pathways and investing in resilient and regenerative strategies for desert production systems is paramount. Join us at the Desert Futures Roundtable, a high-level dialogue, where the whispers of sand morph into actionable agendas. This intimate gathering of visionaries, champions, changemakers convenes to synthesize the Maru Manthan experience and dialogues towards two key outcomes:

  • Roadmap and investments for desert bioregion and agrifood systems
  • Transformative innovation and knowledge partnerships for futures of Commons

Pastoral Yatra

Imagine a journey that transcends the boundaries of ordinary travel, a voyage into the heart of pastoral life, where the arid landscapes of the Thar Desert unfold their secrets and the spirit of pastoral communities’ shines through in the face of climate change. Immersed in the world where camels, the gentle giants of the desert are not just animals but cherished companions, integral to the fabric of life.

This yatra is not merely a journey of observation; it is an invitation to participate, to engage, and to learn from the wisdom of those who have lived in harmony with the desert for generations. Witness the remarkable transformation brought about by the reliability and trust in the process of the communities on their traditional livelihoods, fostering sustainable development and enhancing their resilience to climate change.

The Yatra will help one unravel the essence behind the resilience, colours and optimism of the deserts and feel as a part of the rural communities.

It will offer an array of opportunities to understand the challenges to pastoralism brought to the fore in the light of climate change and the untapped potential of these lands. Let us introduce you to deserts, to pastoralists- the custodians of our agrifood systems.

We invite all adventure enthusiasts to embark on a transformative journey through the heart of Rajasthan, with the Pastoral Yatra, a unique 3-night, 4-day expedition from Jaisalmer to Bajju, Bikaner.

Resilience in ecosystems, particularly in harsh environments like deserts, is crucial for maintaining biodiversity and supporting the livelihoods of communities that depend on these ecosystems. A bioregional approach involves considering the unique characteristics and dynamics of a specific region, including its ecological, social, and cultural aspects, to develop sustainable and resilient solutions.