Highlights: Precarious tea livelihoods resulting in strikes, absenteeism; battle continues for improved housing & land rights; increasing efforts to tackle climate impacts in tea; wide range of civil society and government interventions improving tea workers’ lives.
Image: Esin is a manager at Hopa Tea Cooperative, Turkey. Photo by Sheida Kiran. Medium.com
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- Update on tea sector HRIA
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- News from Civil Society & Academia from IDH, Centre for Child Rights and Business, Fairtrade & more
- Tea media news Round up of media articles from December ’22 and Jan ’23.
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New look THIRST News Update
In addition to news updates from the global media on tea workers’ and farmers’ human rights, wellbeing and environment, THIRST is now widening the remit of the update to include news from civil society, academia, standards bodies, companies and anyone else with relevant reports or initiatives to share. Please spread the word through your networks.
New on THIRST’s Knowledge Hub
Have you recently published – or soon plan to publish – a report or article on any aspect of the human rights or environment of tea workers and/or farmers? Let us know and we will add it to the THIRST Knowledge Hub and promote it in the THIRST News Update. Can’t find a report you are looking for on the Knowledge Hub? Let us know and we will try to find it for you and add it to the Hub.
- Global position on living wages in the tea industry. This paper outlines the Ethical Tea Partnership’s position on living wages in the tea industry. It describes some of the challenges faced when trying to achieve living wages in tea, and summarises ETP’s approach to driving progress in this area. Published January 2023 by the Ethical Tea Partnership.
- Wages in Bangladesh: A study of tea estates, ready made garments, leather and construction. The report offers insights into actual wages, the cost of living and the content of collective labour agreements the Tea Estates, Ready Made Garment, Leather and Construction Industries in Bangladesh. The report forms part of a wider project aimed at achieving decent wages in Bangladesh. Published 2020 by the WageIndicator Foundation and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies. Authors Kea Tijdens, Ahmed Adib, Daniela Ceccon, Tahreen Chowdhury, Minhaj Mahmud,Gabriele Medas, Paulien Osse, Maarten van Klaveren. This paper is also available in Bangla. Contact WageIndicator Foundation for more information.
- Wages: an overlooked Dimension of Business and Human Rights in Global Supply Chains This article draws on data from a study of global tea and cocoa supply chains to explore the impact of wages on forced labour. It demonstrates that low-wage workers experience high vulnerability to forced labour in global supply chains and asserts that the role of wages in protecting workers from exploitation needs to be taken more seriously by scholars and policymakers. Published January 2021 by Cambridge University Press. Authored by LeBaron, G. NB This is a repository copy. The paper is available via an institution or for purchase.
- Report No. 171 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce into Issues affecting the Indian Tea Industry especially in Darjeeling Region
This Parliamentary Standing Committee report highlights issues impacting the tea industry in India with particular reference to the Darjeeling region. The report considers issues including land rights for tea workers, decent living wages for tea workers, welfare measures for tea workers along with concerns over the importation of tea from outside of India and over subsidies. Published June 2022 by the Government of India.
- Social Development and Labour Productivity: The Problem and a Solution for the Tea Plantation Sector of Sri Lanka. This study evaluates the suitability and applicability of a small-scale contract farming system to address labour related problems in tea plantations in Sri Lanka. Published 2013/14 by the Faculty of Management & Finance, University of Colombo. (Occasionally we add older resources to the Knowledge Hub that we think contains lessons that may still be valuable today.)
Update on the Human Rights Impact Assessment of the tea sector
THIRST’s Global Tea Producers Survey – the first of its kind as far as we know – has been distributed to tea producers from twelve countries across three continents. Please let us know if you would like to take part in the survey, which runs until February 28th.
The Survey results will be analysed in March and initial highlights will be shared. These, in addition to the findings of our literature review – Human Rights in the Tea Sector: The Big Picture – will form the basis for a series of Key Informant Interviews to be held with stakeholders throughout the tea industry and sectors that impact on it (government, civil society etc). A full report of the findings of the combined tea producers’ survey and key informant interviews will be published towards the end of this year.
For more information, please:
Join THIRST’s Board of Trustees
THIRST’s Board of Trustees is currently seeking to expand its members to include:
- Representation from the African continent, a significant region for the production and export of tea on which many thousands of people rely for their livelihoods and wellbeing.
- Expertise in fundraising and stronger networks of potential funders.
More information about these voluntary roles and how to apply can be found on THIRST’s website.
News from Civil Society & Academia*
Sivakumar Nadesan awarded 2023 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award for upliftment of Indian-origin Tamils in Lanka: “If you hear the word Ceylon (Sri Lankan) tea, you must see the picture of the tea plucker (lady), that plucker is of Indian origin…Yet, this woman is not recognised at all.. She is the one who plucks the tea leaf that the Queen or King of England drinks! Yet, she does not know that.. We have been striving hard to give them better living conditions… “We have been looking at the issue of Indian origin Tamils (IOTs), who came here 200 years ago and worked on the tea plantations, railways, roads.They (IOTs) were brought here by the British and they developed Sri Lanka to the extent that the country was known… Providing better living conditions, education, housing, healthcare, and nutrition and creating awareness about the same among the Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka, are his key focus areas. (WIO News, Jan 5th)
The Centre for Child Rights and Business: The CCRB has launched a creative initiative: the CRIB podcasts. In Season I, they are focusing on the tea sector. Their opening podcast, launched on 24th January on the International Day of Education, looks at access to quality education for all children living on tea estates. Podcasts | Mother and Child-Friendly Seal for Responsible Business (srilanka-motherandchildseal.org). In November last year, the Centre hosted a Multi-Stakeholder Conference ‘Towards a Family-Friendly Tea Industry’. For more information see this Press Release and catch up with these video recordings of the conference session.
VisionSpring’s Livelihoods in Focus campaign will screen the vision of 1.05 lakh tea workers and artisans this year in Assam: Through Livelihoods in Focus, VisionSpring, together with corporate, NGO and government partners, will screen the vision of 1.05 lakh people who need to see clearly to sustain their incomes. They expect 63,000 people will acquire eyeglasses in 2023 so they can see well and do well. The 2023 commitment is part of a larger aspiration to reach 10 lakh (1 million) low-income people in tea growing regions and establish Assam as a clear vision state. (APN News, Jan 19th)
IDH’s Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund (WSAF) successfully reached 60.000 of tea workers in India, 75% of them are women, about safe and empowering workplace. More than 300.000 community members were also reached about the issue of the violence against women in the workplace. Around 700,000 women are working in the tea estates of Assam and West Bengal, India. Despite their indispensable role in producing more than 50% of tea in India, women workers often experience domestic violence and harassment in the tea estate environment, which often becomes the home, workplace, and community space for tea workers. Lack of awareness of care and protection mechanisms and ways to access in turn has led to low reporting and access.
Fairtrade human rights risk map. The Fairtrade Foundation has launched a new tool which shines a spotlight on the root causes behind the most salient human rights and environmental risks in commodities and countries where Fairtrade works. It does not currently cover the tea category but there are plans to do so in the near future. Watch this space.
Academic study: Assembling Fair Labour. Moral Values and Private Sustainability Standards at Indian Tea Plantations and Natural Stone Pits: The aim of this research is to understand how sustainability standards work inside and in relation to formal and informal norms, rules, agreements, social relations and ideas. Taking the internationally integrated tea and natural stone economies of India as examples, we seek to understand what role sustainability standards play in possibly shaping and transforming local labour regimes and the working conditions for thousands of workers. The project, which runs from 2023 to 2026, is funded by the German Research Foundation (project number 515420286). Further information is available here.
*We are also inviting TEA COMPANIES to share news of their projects, policies and interventions to improve the lives and environment of tea workers and farmers.
Tea Media News
Disclaimer: The following updates consist of a summary of articles from the media in the month(s) preceding publication – they are shared in the spirit of learning and do not necessarily reflect the views of THIRST. Please contact THIRST if you spot any factual errors or would like to raise any other issues connected with the Update. THIRST will not be held liable for any such inaccuracies in the articles summarised here or the external links provided.
Precarious livelihoods in tea: Articles on the precarious nature of tea workers’ and farmers’ livelihoods in multiple countries (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) continue to abound, resulting in hardship and children missing out on education. Some argue that contract farming may be the answer (though THIRST warns that cheap family labour could indicate a risk of exploitation of children and women). Read more
Wage disputes, non-payment of wages and estate closures: Low pay, and – increasingly – non-payment of wages has led to demonstrations, strikes and even violence. In at least two instances, tea estate management have closed estates the day before pay-day. Workers are increasingly seeking employement outside tea, resulting in a worrying trend of absenteeism on Indian estates. Trade unions are making efforts to help improve workers’ conditions, for example, by helping them to access their due benefits in Assam. Read more
Battles for improved housing and land rights: Trade unions are also supporting workers’ calls for land rights which they feel will help the ongoing issues over housing they have been experiencing. Many workers who should be benefitting from government housing schemes in India and Bangladesh claim to be missing out. Read more
Government interventions, laws and policies: The governments of Kenya and India are making efforts to tackle problems on tea plantations; Kenya by launching a task force to look into job losses resulting from increasing mechanisation of tea harvesting and in Assam, India, the state is training tea workers on child exploitation issues. But some government interventions are claimed to be having a detrimental effect on tea workers; in Turkey a new regulation limiting the amount of tea that can be sold to the state tea company is leading small farmers, particularly women, to face significant financial impacts; while the Kenyan tea act that established a floor price for KTDA tea sold at auction is said to have the unintended impact of flooding the market with poorer quality tea that goes unsold at this price. Read more
Adding value and repurposing tea lands: Efforts to address the economic challenges of tea cultivation continue either by attempting to add value – as in the case of KTDA supporting farmers to move into orthodox tea production and India where tea lands are being given over to airports and tourism – which, despite offers of compensation, leads tea workers to fear losing their livelihoods. Read more
Risks and remedies for health and safety in tea production: Health and safety issues on tea gardens range from increased risk of leprosy (in Bangladesh) to attacks by wild animals (India) and the tragic death of a child in a mechanical harvesting machine accident. KTDA is deducting health insurance from farmers’ bonuses to fund treatment of the respiratory and arthritic diseases that are prevalent in tea areas. Read more
Climate change – good and bad news: While tea growing areas continued to face challenging climate impacts, such as snow in the South Indian tea area of Munnar, there has been positive news on efforts to address climate change in tea from tea factories going carbon-neutral or switching from firewod to hydroelectic power, and small farmers moving to organic production, to the huge potential of tea to engage in carbon sequestration which could not only help address climate change but could also boost tea farmers’ incomes. Read more
PRECARIOUS LIVELIHOODS IN TEA
Precarious livelihoods of Darjeeling tea workers
The first in a two-part series on the Darjeeling tea sector covers how “Climate change, recession in global markets, competition from tea varieties from Nepal, and the mismatch between production costs and its price have put the tea industry in Darjeeling at risk”] (India Spend, Part 1, Jan 16th). The second in the series covers how “Darjeeling’s Tea Garden Workers Are Paid Poorly, Have No Land Rights… [T]he abject working and inhumane living conditions of tea labourers is reminiscent of the indentured labour introduced in colonial times by British planters,” noted a 2022 report by a Parliamentary Standing Committee. Workers are trying to improve their lives, they said, and experts concurred. Most workers educate their children, and send them away from the plantations to work. They are also fighting for a higher minimum wage, and for land rights over their ancestral homes… But their already precarious lives are at even greater risk because of the state of the Darjeeling tea industry due to climate change, competition from cheaper teas, recession in global markets and lower production and demand. (India Spend, Part 2 Jan 24th)
Children missing out on education due to Sri Lanka livelihoods crisis
Children in Sri Lanka‘s tea communities are reportedly missing out on education due to the economic crisis, either due to the increased cost of transport and school books etc, or because they are dropping out to engage in income generation activities such as growing and selling vegetables. (The Hindu, Nov 29th)
Bangladesh tea workers lowest paid nationally and among lowest globally
According to the Global Salary Report 2020-21, the monthly minimum wage in Bangladesh in 2019 was $48 or around Tk 4,070, the lowest among South Asian nations. the ILO report determined the “Gross Monthly Minimum Wage Levels in Asia and the Pacific.” Globally, Bangladesh ranked fifth from the bottom among 136 countries. According to the findings of Wage Indicator Foundation’s (a non-profit organization) ‘A study of Tea estates, Ready Made Garment, Leather, and Construction’ in 2020, construction is the industry where pay at or above the minimum wage is reported the most, while tea is the industry where it is reported to be the least. (Financal Express, Jan 7th)
Contract farming may significantly improve livelihoods
Studies of contract farming in Kenya, China and Senegal found that it significantly increased the incomes of farmers, raised their standard of living, improved their health and created surpluses for investments. “… labor productivity is much higher in the smallholdings compared to the corporate sector-managed estates. Most smallholdings are doing better because they use family labor, which keeps the costs low and ensures the personal involvement of the owner in cultivation. The latter attribute ensures greater care and higher yields follow.” [NB low cost “family labor” implies a risk of exploitation of children and women – THIRST] (NewsIn Asia, Dec 27th)
WAGE DISPUTES, NON-PAYMENT OF WAGES AND ESTATE CLOSURES
Workers protest as government-owned estate closed on eve of pay-day
Approximately 500 tea garden workers in Assam’s Hailakandi district… initiated a protest after the authorities purportedly imposed a temporary stoppage of operations. Radheshyam Kurmi, the president of the local panchayat, claimed that the tea estate authorities discreetly posted the lockout notice on Wednesday night and then departed the premises. Thursday was payment day, and the government retreating in this manner has agitated our people, he said. Kurmi further claimed that labourers were paid less than the official rate on a daily basis, and that female workers were pushed to pick more tea leaves than was required. The Tea Association of India’s Barak Valley General Secretary Saradindu Bhattacharjee confirmed the occurrence and expressed hope that the concerns would be resolved shortly. (Prag News, Dec 17th)
Tea estate reopens after a month’s closure
The gates of the Bamandanga-Tondoo tea estate located in Jalpaiguri district reopened on Thursday after a gap of a month, to the relief of around 1,600 workers. On December 27 last year, the management announced suspension of work in the garden alleging that some workers resorted to protests, disrupting regular activities. The state labour department took up the initiative to convene tripartite meetings to facilitate the reopening of the garden. (Telegraph India, Jan 26th)
Bangladesh tea workers demonstrate against non-payment of arrears
On 3 January, tea workers staged a demonstration against the non-payment of arrears, threatening further action if arrears remain unpaid. Workers’ leader, Sabuj Tanti, said many workers have arrears of up to Tk30,000. The Bangladesh Tea Workers’ Union has held several meetings with the plantation owners to demand payment of the workers’ arrears, and letters have been sent to various departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, over the issue. However, the arrears have not yet been paid, forcing the workers to begin a fresh movement. (TBS News, Jan 5th)
Estate closed after violence prompted by non-payment of wages
Following a violent attack on General Manager and Assistant Manager of the Murticherra tea estate, which was prompted by the dispute over non-payment of wages to the workers due to insolvency, the authority closed down the biggest and century-old tea garden of Kailashahar in Unokoti district… According to report, the Murticherra tea estate has been suffering from a financial crisis for the last few years and after the Covid pandemic, it turned serious. Over 500 workers in the garden have not been paid properly, the ration supply was not regular, and other amenities including healthcare facilities were discontinued. (Goa Chronicle, Jan 16th)
Concerns raised about tea worker absenteeism in Bengal
The tea planters’ fraternity in Dooars has expressed concern about the rise in absenteeism among workers and lower price realisations of the brew made in the region. “Even though the tea wages have been increased in a regular manner, the rate of absenteeism has not declined. These days, it is 40 to 50 per cent among male workers and as a whole, it is around 33 per cent. Such disinclination among a section of the workforce is taking its toll on the industry,” said J C Pande, the chairman of Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association (DBITA). At the meeting, the planters underscored that both the state and central governments should come forward and help the industry to cut down its social costs. (Telegraph India, Jan 22nd).
Trade union to help tea workers access due benefits
India: The Trinamul Cha Bagan Sramik Union leadership…will help those tea garden workers who are yet to link their Aadhaar cards with provident fund [PF] accounts to complete the process when special camps by PF authorities are scheduled in January 2023…Many tea garden workers cannot withdraw their dues from the PF accounts as it is mandatory to link Aadhaar cards with PF accounts for the process. The problem gets worse for those who do not have an Aadhaar card. Special camps will be held in tea gardens of the Dooars by the PF authorities to sort out these problems. (Telegraph India, Dec 30th)
BATTLES FOR IMPROVED HOUSING AND LAND RIGHTS
Workers in India and Bangladesh not benefitting from government housing scheme
In Bangladesh, “Field investigations and case documentation have produced strong evidence that there definitely are recipients of SSNP [government housing shceme] benefits who do not qualify for them but receive them anyway. And due to these inclusion errors, many eligible candidates are excluded, since the number of beneficiaries is fixed for each union parishad…Another concern is the fact that a huge proportion of households in Bangladesh are either landless or functionally landless… almost 77 percent of total households in the country are either completely landless, tenants, or are households operating on 0.05 acres of land. Access to land for the poor and marginalised is obviously crucial for sustainable development. It is estimated that there are 3.3 million acres of public (khas) land that could be distributed amongst the landless poor, and demands have already been put forward to the government to consider initiating an SSNP to distribute khas land among the landless. This could also be a strategic social security programme for poverty alleviation. (The Daily Star, Jan 1st)
Workers of two tea estates in Alipurduar district, India, have alleged that their names are not on the list of beneficiaries of the Centre’s housing scheme although they have been living in dilapidated hutments in the gardens. “The workers’ quarters where we stay are in pathetic shape. We spend nights under tarpaulin sheets as the roof collapsed years back…” said Mahipal Dorji, a worker of Bhatpara. According to him, out of the 750-odd quarters in Bhatpara, around 250 are decrepit. Gradually, housing schemes like Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) were introduced in the tea gardens. “However, as the gardens are on leasehold land, workers staying on the land need to obtain a no-objection certificate from the tea company concerned which owns the garden to be eligible for a government-sponsored home,” said a source. (Telegraph India, Dec 20th)
Still in India… When Peermade Tea Company (PTC) wound up operations on December 13, 2000, leaving more than 1,300 workers and their families in the lurch, the government’s efforts to provide land and housing to the families through various schemes, including ‘Zero Landless’ and ‘Life Mission’, came as a relief. However, the plots identified were on hilly tracts, in areas such as Sathram and Nine Acre, with poor road connectivity. As a result, those workers who had money saved bought new land and built houses. However, for workers like Lakshmi, a house still remained a mirage. “The Rs 5,000 we earn monthly through the sale of leaves is scarcely enough to meet the expense of a family. There is no question of saving money to buy a plot,” Lakshmi said. (New Indian Express, Jan 2)
Around 1,000 tea garden workers laid siege to a block development office in Jalpaiguri district for around four hours on Friday, demanding their inclusion in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) [government housing scheme]… “None of us has our own house in the garden. We stay in quarters provided by the management. Earlier, our names were on the list. But many of us could not find the names when the list was revised recently…” said… a worker…For the past few weeks, workers of a number of tea estates have been demanding that they be provided with houses under the PMAY. In most gardens, the workers’ quarters are in dilapidated conditions and repairs are hardly carried out by the management, the workers have said. (Telegraph India, Dec 31)
Tea trade union apex body demands land rights for tea workers
Joint Forum, the apex body of tea trade unions, has demanded from the state government the distribution of land rights to tea workers. The move, said representatives of the organisation, is to ensure that the workers living do not face displacement from their quarters if tea companies take up the initiative to develop tourism infrastructure in tea gardens. Ziaur Alam, the convener of the forum with around 26 constituent trade unions, said that in recent times, a number of tea companies are building resorts and similar infrastructure for tourism in their tea gardens, both in the plains and the hills. (Telegraph India, Jan 15th)
GOVERNMENT INTERVENTIONS, LAWS AND POLICIES
Kenyan task force investigates job losses due to mechanisation
The prolonged battle between the Kericho County Government and the United Kingdom-based tea firms over the deployment of tea harvesting machines is far from over after massive job losses due to the introduction of mechanization. Kericho County Governor Eric Mutai has now formed a task force comprising an 11-member committee chaired by Richard Too to address the issue. (Capital FM, Jan 8th)
Assam training tea workers on child labour/marriage/trafficking issues
An awareness meeting and training programme for tea workers on child labour, child marriage and child trafficking was organized by District Child Protection Unit, Sivasagar in collaboration with State Child Protection Society, Assam (The Sentinel, Dec 21st)
Cameroon Development Corporation calls for return of plantation workers who fled conflict
Cameroon’s second largest employer, the state-run Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), is calling for thousands of plantation workers who fled the country’s separatist conflict to return to work. About half the company’s 20,000 workers left more than four years ago over unpaid wages and after deadly and brutal attacks. The company last week said it was safe to return, but workers are skeptical and say it should first rebuild homes destroyed or damaged in the conflict. (VoA News, Jan 9th)
How a small shift in tea policy is impacting women on the Turkish Black Sea coast
Approximately half of Turkey’s tea passes through a Çaykur [the state-owned tea company] factory. The company has historically offered a reliable and moderately comfortable income from tea, which drove… hundreds of thousands… to take up growing in the 1970s. However, over the last decade the government has introduced a daily limit on tea purchased by Çaykur per farmer. Any excess tea must be slung back into the seller’s pick-up truck and sold for significantly less to nearby private factories… The repercussions of Çaykur’s tea limit are felt in every crevice of the Black Sea valleys, above all for women — who traditionally lead tea picking activities. (Medium, Dec 16th) See also this documentary on the same topic (BBC, Dec 16th)
Unintended consequences of minimum reserve price for KTDA tea
One of the main issues that have faced small-scale tea farmers [in Kenya] is the low prices for their tea leaves. This is due to several factors, mainly overproduction in the world market, lack of bargaining power, and low levels of value-addition… [T]he introduction of a fixed minimum reserve price of $2.43 for a kilo of made tea for KTDA-managed factories [has had unintended negative consequences]. By placing a base price, teas that do not attract this $2.43 are left unsold which raises the number of unsold stocks [leading to] a risk of downward price pressure due to the high stocks of unsold teas in the market. (The Star, Jan 14th)
High Court dismisses Public Interest Litigation alleging that tea workers not benefitting from beneficial social welfare legislation
The Tripura [India] High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation alleging that tea garden labourers in Tripura were not getting the benefit of beneficial social welfare legislation… it has been recorded that there are 11 numbers of major defaulting tea gardens detected in the State of Tripura. Six tea gardens have been abandoned by the owners. As a result, the right to life and livelihood of the labourers has been discarded. Tea gardens are not protected. They are not getting wages and other lawful entitlements from the recorded owners and State. … This court feels that this is not a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) as contemplated under the guidelines of the PIL and this is purely a private interest of the petitioner who is involved whether it is an individual or larger extent. (India Legal Live, Dec 5th)
ADDING VALUE AND REPURPOSING TEA LANDS
Indian tea estates make way for airports and tourism
Chief minister offers money and promises of education, electricity, employment etc to workers on tea estate being cleared to make way for airport. Workers demand land back. [East Mojo] Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), an associate company of Tata Consumer Products and India’s second-largest tea producer, plans to use its estates for tourism. (Business Standard, Jan 19th [paywall])
KTDA supporting farmers entering orthodox tea market
The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) is in the process of supporting farmers’ venture into the processing of orthodox tea in its allied factories in a bid to increase their revenue… “The machines will help in processing of orthodox tea which has high demand in the international markets and will eventually enable farmers to get more returns,” said the [KTDA] chairperson [David Ichoho]… “We want to tap a big market in Africa which has a population of more than 1.4 billion under the policy of the African Continental Free Trade Area. This will ensure our tea is not highly affected by fluctuation of overseas currencies,” he added. (Capital FM, Jan 24th)
RISKS AND REMEDIES FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY IN TEA PRODUCTION
Health insurance deductions to help address tea farmers’ diseases
KTDA will commence paying annual [health insurance] cover for its members & deducted it from their end-of-year bonus…”many farmers are affected by respiratory and arthritis diseases due to harsh climatic conditions associated with tea growing zones.”[The Star, Dec 10th]
Bangladesh tea workers at higher risk of leprosy
Most tea garden workers [in Bangladesh] are illiterate. They are not aware of leprosy. Furthermore, they have to live in a congested and unhygienic environment. That is why tea workers are among the highest infected… Around 98 percent of leprosy-infected people in Moulvibazar, 62 percent in Sylhet and 72 percent in Habiganj, belong to tea worker communities, according to district civil surgeons. (The Daily Star, Jan 29th)
Child killed in tea-plucking machine accident
A nine-year-old boy was killed by a self-propelled tea-plucking machine at the Cheptabes Tea estate in Kericho. He got into the tea bushes where the machine was passing through to have a glimpse of how the tea harvesting blades work. (The Star, Jan 18th)
Tea workers injured in wild animal attacks
A 51-year-old Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation (TANTEA) worker was injured in a leopard attack in The Nilgiris… workers lamented that their quarters did not have adequate toilets and hence, they were forced to attend nature’s call in the open by risking their lives.” (DT Next, Jan 25th) A 65-year-old retired tea estate worker was killed in an elephant attack in in Gudalur (South India) while out collecting firewood in the forest. (The Hindu, Jan 22nd)
CLIMATE CHANGE – GOOD AND BAD NEWS
Freezing temperatures and snow damage crops and pluckers’ income
Munnar is experiencing snow fall and a continuous drop in temperature. It even touched -3 degree Celsius in some areas since the beginning of January. Even though the heavy winter and snowfall would prove to be a boon for the tourism sector, it could be a challenge for the tea farmers. Tea leaves will dry out when the snow that falls on them melts under the sun. This will be a huge loss for the tea plantations. Such crop damage in previous years have led to an increase in tea prices. Also, on days with snowfall, workers will not be able to reach the plantation early in the morning, affecting their income. (Mathrubhumi, Jan 16th)
Tea factories to switch from firewood to hydroelectric power
Six Kenyan tea factories plan to switch from firewood to hydroelectric power. Tea factories allied to Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA)… plan to lower cost of production by embracing use of electricity instead of firewood… to reduce production cost. (Kenya News, Nov 29th )
Nilgiris going green with organic growers and carbon neutral tea factory
The Kaikatty Industrial Co-Operative Tea Factory (in the Nilgiris, South India), is set to achieve carbon-neutral status soon -the first to do so in the region. The factory will also get an additional unit for orthodox tea manufacturing. (Times of India, Jan 20th) Also: 800 small growers cultivating around 600 acres in the Kundha taluk of the Nilgiris district bordering Kerala are going organic, as part of the movement across the Nilgiris district. (MSN, Jan 1st)
Tea has huge potential for carbon sequestration – which can also boost earnings
Assam… was recently identified as one of the most climate-vulnerable states in India… tea-growing areas have been witnessing long rainless spells or high-intensity rainfall of short duration in recent years, resulting in waterlogging and soil erosion… A multi-year study (2004-2013) across 82 tea gardens in Assam found that tea yield is sensitive to a rise in monthly average temperature – a drop in yield is registered when the average temperature goes beyond 26.60C… [The] carbon sequestration process… mitigates the climate change impact and also helps farmers with an additional revenue source, thus increasing their income. Tea agroforestry systems (tea plants and shade trees) have shown immense potential to sequester carbon dioxide, and act as a sink for decarbonising the tea value chain. Soil carbon sequestration, while mitigating carbon emissions, also enhances soil quality and agroecosystem productivity, thereby reducing the input cost for the farmer (like fertilisers, pesticides etc.) and creating an additional income stream. (ABP Live, De 25th)
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