This little girl would like to be a doctor when she grows up.
Her mother is a tea plucker.
But many of the mothers who pluck the leaves that make your cuppa (most tea pluckers are women), live in poverty in tiny, crowded, dilapidated houses, without clean drinking water or electricity.
The schools and hospitals provided for them are often of poor quality.
If their daughters don’t take over their plucking jobs when they retire, they lose their home…
So what chance does this little girl have of becoming a doctor?
THIRST is working to change the system that keeps tea pluckers and their families poor.
Help us to create a thriving tea industry that’s fair for everyone by donating £10 a month (or whatever you can afford).
Together we will help the women who pluck your tea to have a safer, fairer and fuller future. And help their children to have the future they want… and then you can enjoy a really good cuppa!
Scroll down to find out more…
What’s the problem?
Tea is the most popular drink in the world after water. And yet tens of thousands of people involved in making it still live in poverty and sickness. No individual person or company is to blame for this situation. It is a system that was largely inherited from the time when European countries – mainly Britain – started developing tea plantations in the countries they had colonised.
Although colonialism has ended and much has changed in those countries, many of the systems they set up still exist.
Tea pluckers are still mostly women and are paid very little. The tea companies provide them with housing, healthcare and education – but they often struggle to provide good quality services because the price of tea has plummeted over the decades.
So why don’t tea pluckers just leave and get jobs elsewhere? Well, often it’s because they don’t earn enough cash to allow them to break out and make a new life.
Tea usually grows in beautiful, hilly areas with just the right climate for the bushes to thrive. But these areas are far away from towns and places that offer other jobs they could take up.
Also, the education levels on many tea plantations is very low, and they just don’t have the skills to get new jobs.
So they are trapped. Unless they can scrape together enough for their children to get a good education and find work elsewhere.
Or unless the system changes.
What is THIRST doing about it?
We are working hard to fully understand this complex situation so that we can help the tea industry find solutions that will last.
We’re talking to tea pluckers and other tea plantation workers, smallholder tea farmers, and their families and community leaders. We’re talking to tea companies and supermarkets, as well as the governments, trade unions… And we’re bringing together all the people who can make a difference to help them come up with practical answers to these problems.
The answers may be at a very local level – like designing workwear that will keep tea pluckers safe from the leeches and snakes that lurk invisibly under the bushes they are plucking.
Or they may be at national level – like campaigning for laws that set higher wages for all tea pluckers, or that let them (rather than the plantation) own their homes.
Or they could be global solutions, like many tea producing countries agreeing that they will work together to improve the quality of tea, not flood the market and so keep prices high enough so that tea pluckers and farmers can live decent lives.
THIRST will help to ensure that these solutions are followed up on and that they are really making tea pluckers’ lives better – and giving their children real hope for the future.
But to achieve that, we need your help.
What can you do to help?
1. Choose better quality tea
THIRST has found that one of the reasons tea pluckers are paid so little is that we pay so little for our tea. We’ve got used to cheap tea. We’ve got used to tea bags. We’ve got used to tea that, frankly, isn’t very good quality. And that has an impact on the quality of life of the women who pluck it. So one of the most important things you can do is to choose better quality tea.
Try brewing a nice warm pot of loose leaf tea… and really savour it. You’ll be surprised how much nicer it tastes!
Seek out ‘single estate’ teas, or tea grown by smallholder farmers instead of on big, industrial estates. These pure teas are grown in particular regions that give them their special flavour (like wine!) instead of being blended with many others for a uniform taste. And the companies that sell them are more closely in touch with what is happening on the farms and estates and how workers are being treated.
Look for teas that carry certification labels such as Fairtrade, World Fair Trade Organisation, B-Corp or Rainforest Alliance. This isn’t a guarantee that all is well – but it means that workers and farmers are more likely to be listened to, and efforts are being made to improve their wellbeing.
Choose organic. It’s better for the environment and for you, and farms that are taking better care of nature are more likely to be taking better care of people.
Yes, you may need to pay a little bit more for better quality tea – but if you can afford it, it could help make a difference. Especially combined with the research, advocacy, campaigning and convening work of organisations like THIRST.
2. Support THIRST
Your donation of £10 a month (or whatever you can afford) will help THIRST to change the system that keeps tea pluckers poor.
It won’t be quick. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it… for the little girl who wants to be a doctor and millions like her.
We wish we could say that every £10 you donate will pay for a child to have clean water for a year, or that it will buy them a school uniform. But even if we could, the chances are that once that year is over, or she has outgrown the uniform – the system that made her poor in the first place will still be there, and she will still be poor.
It will be harder to change the system – but it’s the only way to create a thriving tea industry that’s fair for everyone… and STAYS fair.