Most tea is grown on estates or plantations in Asia and Africa. It is common for workers on tea plantations to live and work on the plantation year round, often in the poorest conditions with no access to education or health care. While many countries require that tea workers are paid a minimum wage, these laws are often not enforced, leaving workers with no protections or legal recourse. Over 120,000 tea pickers have been able to improve their lives by benefiting from the Fair Trade system.
Fair Trade Tea Cooperative
Makaibari Tea Garden
Photo and profile provided
by TransFair USA
The Makaibari tea garden lies in the Darjeeling hills of Northeastern India. In continuous operation since 1859, Makaibari is one of the oldest of all Indian tea gardens. The garden is home to 610 teaworkers and their families.
The Makaibari tea garden is a pioneer in innovative management. As early as 1971, garden manager Rajah Banerjee made the decision to switch production to a 'permaculture' based system, and since 1991 production has been 100% organic and biodynamic. Mr. Banerjee lives on the garden and takes great pride in the high quality of Makaibari teas, which have consistently been ranked among the best of all Darjeeling teas.
The premium they earn through sales of Fair Trade teas has enabled the worker community at Makaibari to take an active role in improving their own lives. Projects the Makaibari workers have financed through Fair Trade include:
- Microcredit. Makaibari's workers have chosen to create a community loan fund. So far the fund has made more than 100 small loans for housing, medical needs, education, livestock and small business. Educational and medical loans carry no interest, and the fund enjoys a 100% repayment rate.
- Scholarship funds. Several young tea garden members have received scholarships to study horticulture at a center in Darjeeling.
- Village electricity. With premiums from Fair Trade, the workers of Makaibari were finally able to bring electricity to their villages and homes.
- Organic Fertilizer. The pickers sponsored workshops to learn how to produce organic fertilizer in their homes. The garden then buys the fertilizer to use on its tea plants—an arrangement that nourishes the garden as a whole.
“We give our tea plantation constant, and natural, assistance with biodynamic techniques. One look at our land, even to the unschooled eye, will show a forest teeming with wildlife and plant life, a bounty of the sky with butterflies and birds, and all these synergistic life forces show up in the cup.” —Rajah Banerjee, Owner and Manager, Makaibari
More about tea:
- There are over 70 FLO certified tea estates and small-scale producer groups in 11 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America
- The U.S. Fair Trade tea imports increased an impressive 187% in 2005
- Fair Trade Certified™ Tea ensures that:
- Tea pickers receive wages that meet or exceed legally established minimums.
- The garden operates without forced or child labor.
- Pickers are permitted freedom of association and organization.
- Working conditions are safe and workers are not exposured to harmful agrochemicals.
- National and international labor protections are followed, including those established by the International
Labor Organization of the UN and, in India, by the Plantation Labor Act .
- A portion of the purchase price goes directly into a community development fund that is administered by the tea pickers themselves, allowing them to identify and address their own most serious needs, from funding scholarships to improving access to clean drinking water, and bringing electricity to their homes.
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