Mithrio Soomra, a remote village in Tharparkar, Sindh is a neglected settlement. Far from civilization, the residents of the village don’t see much progress and development. Life in this town revolves around feeding the families and livestock breeding, which is central to the economy and ensures survival of the villagers. The story of Mithrio Soomra is the story of a number of villages spanned over 22,000 sq. km of district Tharparkar and housing over 1.2 million people.
Survival under abject conditions requires access to basic necessities, but it’s usually tied to massive efforts to make those facilities available.. Water being one of the basic requirements is in short supply, and the limited groundwater available is saline to brackish, has a high concentration of various salts and minerals and is not fit for consumption. Dug-wells providing suitable drinking water are the only solution and are few and far between. Women and children have to travel long distances, taking 5-6 hours every day to reach these wells. On the other hand, men spend their day tending to livestock, covering vast ground in order to get to water and grazing grounds for them.
Water shortage in turn has an impact on the livestock health and quality as well as quantity of produce, resulting in low selling prices of both the cattle and the milk. The insufficient income forces the villagers to accumulate debts which they try to pay off for the rest of their lives. This is not the only downside the villagers face; spending the better part of the day ensuring basic means of survival has a massive opportunity cost in terms of education, sustainable employment and leisure.
Making life easier for the people of the desert
As part of the Sindh Agricultural Growth Project (SAGP), Plan International Pakistan, in collaboration with the Department of Livestock and Agriculture, Government of Sindh, started working in Mithrio Soomra, in order to address some of the basic issues and later expand its focus with an aim to bring such resources to other villages across the desert.
Under SAGP, Plan International Pakistan streamlined the dairy value chain in the village by establishing milk-producing groups (MPGs); enabling asset transfers including milk chillers and livestock; and setting up solar-powered water supply, storage solutions and veterinary health units. The milk collection and storage mechanism ensured better quality of milk resulting in higher selling price. The veterinary center ensured livestock health thereby improving the quality and quantity of meat and milk. The solar pumps ensured availability of drinking water which brought ease and convenience to the people of the villag
“We are grateful”, said an emotional Mirsan, a 48 year old housewife. “Plan International Pakistan has turned our lives around by giving us back 6 hours of our life every day. We have spent a life of struggle that revolved around staying alive and keeping our cattle alive. Rain or sunshine, day or night we have been involved in this continuous cycle of survival. But I’m glad that it has changed for my little girls who can now go to school, enjoy free time as well as help us in our daily chores."