Situated along the international border with Pakistan, the districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer are the heart of the desert - Thar. This results in a recurring drought cycle often continuously for three years. Consequently, the land, the people and the animals (largely cattle) are severely affected by failed crops and rising fodder costs. In turn, migration is forced on both humans and cattle.
Barmer district covers an area of 28,387 sq km. According to the 2001 census, the total rural population is 1,963,758 of which 28.71% is below poverty line. Jaisalmer has an area of 38,401 sq km. Its rural population is 430,527 of which 26.11% is below the poverty line. The average annual precipitation for Barmer and Jaisalmer is 6 to 7 inches.
Barmer district is also known as Mallani, after Rawal Mallinathji. Rawal Jaisal, chief of the Bhati clan, founded the city of Jaisalmer. A legend exists that Shri Krishna had prophesied that a descendant of his clan would build a kingdom on the Trikuta Hill.
Successive droughts, a rising population, scarcity of groundwater and a deteriorating permanent ecological balance have made life very difficult for the people living in these areas. There is acute shortage of food grains and the poor man is the hardest hit. Add to that, the ever-increasing fodder prices are forcing people to abandon their cattle and migrate to other place in search of newer employment.
The harshness of life in the desert has not hampered an unique and culturally rich life from emerging. The centuries old Mallinath Fair held at village Tilwara, in Barmer district, is one of the biggest cattle fairs of Western India. Numerous breeds of cattle, camels, sheep, goats and horses are annually on display and sale on this occassion.