New Delhi: Handmade paper, woolen mats and rugs and even mosquito repellents made out of camel dung is finding its way into urban market shelves.

Novelty items made from camel milk, wool and dung are being introduced into cities through Camel Charisma, the marketing arm of Rajasthan's Lokhit Pashu Palak Sanshtan (LPPS), a society aimed at supporting livestock dependant people.

"We have introduced a variety of paper products like diaries, journals, calendars, mobile covers, greeting cards and other stationery items made from the dung of camels," says Hanwant Singh Rathore, Director of LPPS, which is exhibiting for the first time at the 19th edition of the annual Dastkar Mela here.

What began as a means to increase the income of traditional communities who have been associated with camel rearing in Rajasthan, the initiative is now spreading into other areas as well.

"Our best selling products are handmade paper," says Rathore who has tied up with a Delhi organisation to produce the paper products.

Camel dung is dried and ground finely, washed many times before being treated and mixed with 30 per cent waste cotton sourced from areas like Tirupur and finally made into pulp that gets converted to paper.

"We are trying to better the quality of paper and make it finer," points out Rathore.

The paper, he says, can contain as many as 32 desert plants that the camels feed on and it could even sprout if kept wet!

A camel breeder himself, Rathore, is a regular visitor at the annual camel fair in Pushkar where his organisation has been selling the products. For the past two years a fast selling product at the fair, he says, has been Ice-cream made out of camel milk.

"We had introduced it in Delhi too but were not able to sustain it for long," says Rathore.

Soaps manufactured from camel milk and camel fertilizer are also bestsellers.
"Women traditionally used a mix of multani mitti and turmeric with camel milk in their beauty rituals. Also, the fibre rich camel manure is a good fertilizer that can retain its potency as much as three years. When lit the manure balls also repel mosquitoes," says the camel breeder.
Collaborations with wool experts and designers, the organisation is also creating a range of apparel (shawls and caps) and home furniture items (rugs and mats).

"We have around 12 shades of wool ranging from black, deep brown to almost white. The coarser ones are used in mats and dhurries while the finer ones are used to make stoles," says Rathore.

The projects have been contributing to increase the income of the camel herders during monsoon and the breeding season when there is no grazing.

"We are empowering desert women, including women, who normally lead a very secluded life in isolated villages through exposure, training and new livelihood options," says a member of Camel Charisma.

Moving on to other specialised and sustainable products are the goals of Camel Charisma.

"We are experimenting with art on camel dung paper. We have a few samples of local warli art and trying to find out if other local art can be depicted," says Rathore.