Camel Charisma, the brainchild of vet Dr Ilse Kӧhler-Rollefson and her Rajasthani partner Hanwant Singh Rathore, is a social enterprise which has been developing and promoting environment-friendly products from camels with the sole purpose of saving the animal from extinction. Dr Kӧhler is also the author of Camel Karma: Twenty Years Among India’s Camel Nomads. The book chronicles her journey, relentless pursuit and undying passion to bring about a change to the lives of the pastoral community of Raika. In a warm and insightful interview with Soulveda, Dr Kӧhler talks about her work, writing and Camel Charisma. Excerpts:
Could you throw some light on the functioning of Camel Charisma?
We have set up many different value chains, each of them requiring detailed technical expertise, including camel hair value addition, camel poo paper and camel milk soap. Now, we supply frozen camel milk to many places in India. It helps people suffering from autism, diabetes, liver problems and many other diseases. There is a myriad of challenges in setting up a social enterprise and making it self-sustainable and profitable. One needs to have business acumen. Unfortunately, that is not in my genes but it is very satisfying to be a part of this development and the revenue makes a significant difference to the Raika.
How does Camel Charisma contribute to conserving the biodiversity and agro-ecosystem?
By generating income from camel products, it supports a local biodiverse economy and, based on the many types of trees, shrubs and grasses that camels forage on, it helps the agro-ecosystem. Unless the breeders can generate some income from camels, the animal is set for extinction in India.
“I was strongly attracted to the Raikas’ bond with their animals. Following my interaction with them, I realised they wanted my help regarding camel medication, so I felt I had to do the best to support them.”