Creating a fairer, better, more sustainable tea industry for workers, farmers and the environment
Mavuto works directly with tea farmers in Malawi, supporting them with our lending and saving scheme as well as environmental efforts. A Natural Resources Management graduate from the University of Malawi, he oversaw projects while at the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi and worked on a community energy development project at The Malawi Polytechnic before joining ETP.
Thwango leads our team in Malawi, overseeing the delivery of all our activity in this African country. She is passionate about developing tea workers and small-scale farmers’ skills in collaboration with our key partners in Malawi. Drawing upon her extensive experience of community-based programmes to increase incomes, Thwango ensures that ETP’s support makes a real difference to tea communities.
Diya works directly with tea communities in India to support our life-changing projects. She initially joined ETP while gaining her Masters in Anthropology of Food at SOAS, University of London. She’s also worked with London-based organic food collective Riverford and India-based NGO Navdanya, focusing on biodiversity and farmers’ rights.
Veronica has been a member of one of ETP’s cookstove production groups for a year. She really appreciates that the cookstoves use less fuelwood as she now has “more free time that I can spend with family and friends” rather than collecting wood.
Being part of the cookstove group has been life-changing for the tea farmer and her five children. Veronica says, “before the cook stoves production, I didn’t have enough income to support the family. The programme has helped because now I can contribute to school fees. Once they have finished secondary school, I would like them to go on to college”.
Veronica also took part in Farmer Field School training, run by ETP, where she “learnt about good agricultural practices and environmental management”. Since being able to apply what she learnt, Veronica’s “yield has really increased as a result” – increasing her income.
Reflecting on her situation, Veronica says “with all these initiatives, my family life is better”.
Keen to add to her income, tea farmer Angela joined ETP’s cookstove programme where she makes and sells stoves. She invests the extra money she makes in to a community savings scheme.
She says, “I can see that my life is changing for the better. Now that I am able to do things independently because of this new income, other women in the community look to me as an example, they want to learn from me. Even my husband gives me the respect I deserve, much more respect than a wife traditionally gets”.
A graduate from ETP’s agricultural training programme, Farmer Field School, Angela is “getting a much better yield. I have more money now. I am no longer struggling to send my children to school”. Her other priority is “that the food I buy is balanced in the ways I learnt in Farmer Field School. The extra money allows me to do this”.
What first attracted tea farmer Asuwema to the beekeeping club was “how well the women were doing. They’ve got extra money and have TVs and bikes”. A single mother of one, she is keen to be self-sufficient: “besides the money, the women in the group encourage each other and give each other advice… they can help me with life in general”.
She says that “women are not respected here as much as men. Single mothers have a tough time as they are not respected. When I have money and I am self-reliant, for sure I will be respected”.
Asuwema puts some of the extra money she makes from the beekeeping group in to a community savings scheme, set up by ETP. She wants to use the savings to help her mother invest in building work as “her house isn’t good, and I’m worried about how it will cope when the rains come”.
Tea farmer Walter is a member of one ETP’s tree nursery groups in Malawi. He’s aware that “most of the indigenous forest has gone” and has so far planted 200 trees himself. He will “sell about 150 and keep the stump and roots” so that they sprout again.
Walter uses the extra income he makes from his trees to support him and his family. He can “sell a full-grown tree for firewood” and “a younger tree for poles for construction”. As well as spending the extra money he makes on essential like food, Walter also invests in school fees for his six children and seven grandchildren.
Grandmother Esnart is part of her local tree nursery group, planting trees to combat deforestation. The tea farmer witnessed first-hand the changes to the landscape, and she notes “when I was a child, the mountains were so beautiful. There was a blanket of forest, so thick that if you went up with another person, you couldn’t see each other. It was full of wild animals, but they have all gone now”.
It’s not just her generation that’s seen the effects of deforestation. He grandson Matthew is 22, and is all too aware of the impact of these changes: “there were some trees on the mountain when I was a child, though I was told then that it was nothing like it used to be. But now even they have gone. I can only imagine wild animals on the mountains from stories my grandmother has told me.”
Matthew knows that now is the time for action: “I fear it will be very bad when I have children. They will be very angry with our generation for allowing this to happen. But I hope it won’t come to that and we will choose to reforest the mountain instead.”
Tea farmer Patricia notes that having a solar lamp “only brings joy and happiness” to her and her family. She used to worry when using paraffin lamps in the home as “they are a great danger. Children can forget it is on and fall asleep. They can also lead to chest infections”.
Having a solar light means Patricia’s four children can all read by it at night. This has been transformational for her family, and Patricia’s “seen a great improvement in their schoolwork”. One of her sons is reaping the benefits of the extra study time. He went from being “number 20 in the class for results, but since we’ve had the lamp, he’s moved up to number three”.
Ramaya grows organic vegetables in his family’s kitchen garden. He says that as it is “very healthy they prefer it. I knew about the importance of nutritious food before but not to this extent”.
Tea worker Devadasan has been taking part in the ‘out grower’ model and with the extra income from his plot of land has been able to send his son to university.
He says, “I use the money from our plot for my son’s university education. He is studying an arts degree. He wants to become a teacher and I think he might come to work in our area. I hope that some of my daughters will go to university too. I’d like my daughters to become engineers and lawyers”.
Selvamerry is a tea worker, she has been taking part in the ‘out grower’ model. She says that she is now hoping to use the extra income to save for her children’s education:
“I will use the extra money for my kids’ education. When I had some spare recently, I bought gold jewellery. We have a tradition here of ‘saving’ money in jewellery. If we put it in the bank, we might treat it like cash and spend it quickly. But if we buy jewellery, we will definitely think twice before selling it”.
The backbone of ETP’s business and entrepreneurship training in Rwanda is Patricia. An inspiring lady, she is the first woman to become a Master Trainer. A Malawian, she travelled to Rwanda specially to ensure the success of the project when it launched and is confident about its future:
“We are going to have a big impact in Rwanda… we will help farmers in terms of the record keeping, planning, knowing the size of their land enhancing their entrepreneurial skills, and better farm management, which will lead to improved incomes”.
Having a woman as a trainer and role model for business has had a remarkable impression on the females being trained. Patricia notes that “most women open up when they are talking with fellow women… because when they see a fellow woman doing it, they believe that they, too, can do it”.
Tea farmer Speciose leads one of ETP’s Farmer Field Schools in Rwanda, where nearly half the members are women. The group learnt how to grow mushrooms through the programme, and Speciose says “this will be a very good income-generating activity for us”. The extra money can be saved in one of ETP’s lending and savings schemes, which she also heads.
Aside from the financial benefits, Speciose says “we appreciate this because mushrooms are rich in nutrients and minerals and will contribute to the good health of our families”.
Taking part in ETP’s Farmer Field School has transformed not just tea farmer Emily’s life, but also her five children’s too. Thanks to the training, she’s seen a big increase in her income and “tea cultivation is giving me enough money now to send them all to school”.
Enterprising tea farmer Emily not only grows tea, but also runs a shop. She notes that “the school taught me business skills. I wanted to start a business already, but I didn’t know where to begin”.
Inspired by ETP’s training, she says “my next venture will be to supply spare parts for motorbikes. It is my dream to set that up. With that, I’ll have more money to support my children through education”.
Yogesh is Joint Secretary of a CDF and lives on a tea estate with his wife, a plucker, and their child. Around half of the residents in the community don’t have any form of identification.
Yogesh is passionate about helping his community secure the documentation that they need. He says, “a lot of people don’t have any identity documentation and without these documents it is very difficult for people to do the things they need to do to make their lives better”.
Noting the pivotal role documentation plays, Yogesh details “for example, it is mandatory now to have a bank account. But without a bank card, you can’t open a bank account. Without a birth certificate, we can’t enrol our children in a school outside the tea estate. There are government quotas for people from certain casts for government jobs. But without the caste certificate you are not eligible for those quotas”.
Yogesh’s collection of identification documents
Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos
Yogesh sees an opportunity for the CDFs to streamline the issuing of identification documents for tea communities. A complicated bureaucracy means that currently people have to travel to lots of different government offices to get the relevant papers, costing time and money. The CDFs can make life easier for residents by being the link between the community and the government.
Yogesh is keen to “explain to people the importance of this as not everyone understands the benefits”. Hopeful about the future, he says “through the CDFs we can work together… we can all rise. Not only the community but the whole industry”.
As Secretary of the estate’s CDF Amrit is proud to be part of “a proper process for activities that will help us”. For him, the initiative plays an invaluable role in “improving developments on the estate” for the whole community’s benefit.
The CDF has “done some problem prioritisation to talk about the most important issues for all the community”. They identified youth unemployment as a major concern to address.
Amrit notes that “we have a lot of young people living one the tea estate who are educated but haven’t been able to find jobs. The garden isn’t able to employ everybody”. Keen to find a solution, the CDF “facilitates vocational skills training so that they can be employed elsewhere, for example in hotel management and other trades”.
A member of his local CDF, Deepjiyoti is involved in creating an action plan for improvements to the tea estate. He notes that “there are a lot of problems with alcohol on the estate. While some women do drink, it is mostly men and often it is men who work for cash wages off the estate. They have money in their hand, and they spend it on drink”.
He points out alcohol is a “big source of conflict. Sometimes men who are drinking can’t hold down a job and are beating their wives and taking their wages to spend on drink. If the wife refuses to give him her wages, then they might sell household items to spend on liquor”.
This can also have a detrimental effect on children in the home, and disrupt their studies. As Deepjiyoti says, “it’s not just about the alcoholic, it’s about the impact on the people around them”.
Via the CDF, Deepjiyoti is working to address alcoholism on the estate. This includes awareness-raising by going “house to house discouraging people from drinking and also from brewing alcohol in their homes”. Recognising the value of the CDFs, Deepjiyoti notes that “by representing everyone on the estate it gives us a bit more leverage that we can use to solve the problem”.
Though a Political Science graduate, Deepjyoti is currently unemployed. Deepjyoti sees lots of potential for the CDF to also help estate residents to access skills training that will increase their employability.
He says, “There are a lot of educated young people on the estate, but they are still not qualified for certain positions. There are loads of skills development programmes that the government runs. If we can identify what the programmes are and help people access them, then they can also look for jobs inside or outside the tea estate. Personally, I would like to do hotel management training”.
Asha is a tea plucker and founding member of the CDF on her estate.
She says, “the management and my community nominated me to represent them. I can’t read and write but I understand the context very well, and I can come back and talk to the people in my community in their own language”.
Asha recognises the value of the CDF, noting “it brings everyone together – student union, trade union – to find solutions for the benefit of the estate and make a complete action plan”.
She points out that the CDF structure means that they can help tackle the root causes of some of the issues people face on the estates: “everything is linked. Getting our ID documents has a snowball effect on everything else. Not having a bank card means you can’t open a bank account. Not having a bank account means you can’t save money”.
Annie learnt how to cook nutritious recipes as part of her Farmer Field School training. It’s had a far-reaching impact on tea farmer Annie and her family. She’s noticed that her “children are so much healthier now – they can concentrate better”. Not only that, Annie’s found that both her and her husband “feel stronger when we are working in the tea field”.
Taking part in Farmer Field School programme has also meant that the family have been able to make more money from the tea they grow. They invest this in a community savings scheme.
Keen to find innovative ways to earn more, they use the extra income to run a small, profitable shop from their house.
The biggest fans of Edna’s newly developed cooking skills are her two sons. They can’t get enough of the nourishing sweet potato fritters she’s learnt to make, and Edna’s noticed a real improvement in their health since introducing a more balanced diet. She says,
“I can really see the change in my youngest child. He used to get sick a lot and now he doesn’t”.
Edna has taken part in the Farmer Field School programme and so now grows a variety of crops. She invests her increased income in the community savings scheme.
She says: “I plan to save towards my children’s education. The money will accumulate, and it should be enough for their secondary education. I am hopeful that they will get well-paid jobs. One wants to be a driver and the other wants to be a pilot”.
Entrepreneurial tea farmer Victoria runs a hair salon. She is proud that her “business is very profitable. I supply treatments and hair pieces and I go home every day smiling”.
Being part of a community savings scheme has given Victoria the opportunity to access funds to grow her salon:
“Now I can do every type of style a customer wants. Eventually, I want my salon to expand so I can have many customers at once”.
A mother of two, Victoria’s increased income has meant she can now pay for both her children to go school. She notes “when we don’t have financial security, life is hard. But in my case, I am respected, and I am able to support others who are struggling so I have influence”.
Patrick is a painter on a tea estate in Malawi, he says that “when I started work I had no qualifications, but I have put in the work and now I have been promoted”.
Patrick invests some of his salary in to a community savings scheme, set up by ETP. He appreciates that “we can save a little now to fulfil our dreams in the future”. Patrick uses the money he saves to change his family’s lives for the better. He says,
“I want to improve my family’s standard of living. I’d like to be able to provide them with more food and more variety”.
Patrick has three daughters and a son and can use his savings to pay their school fees. He says, “I want my children to be educated so that they can be independent. I want them to be able to stand on their own two feet”.
Rhoda is a member of a community savings scheme and has been saving to build her house. She says:
“I started building this house in 2014. I joined the scheme in 2016. I used a loan to buy 60 bags of cement to finish off my house. I grew up in a small house with a grass thatched roof, so I am very proud of this house”.
She has also been able to use her savings to purchase a fridge, which she is using to run her own drinks business. With the extra income from selling drinks she plans to purchase more resources to set up future ventures.
We support tea communities, and run community savings schemes with workers in the tea industry. Currently more than 2,000 workers are part of this initiative, and most of these are women. The extra money is used for basic needs such as housing, medical care and education as well as being invested in entrepreneurial opportunities.
Malawian tea farmer Loveness never managed to complete school. She has three young children and attends a Farmer Field School. She’s seen a big increase in income thanks to the training, and the amount she makes a month has nearly doubled.
This has been life-changing for Loveness, who says, “I adopted my niece when my sister died. I could afford to do this because of the extra money I am earning since Farmer Field School”. She can now pay for all her daughters to go to school and wants her girls to be “the first in my family to finish secondary school”.
Appointed in 2011, Ian has extensive experience of the consumer products industry and development of sustainable supply chains. Having held several senior supply chain roles at Unilever, his 30-year executive career there culminated in his appointment as the company’s first Chief Supply Chain Officer. Ian Chaired the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Board, and led transformational aspects of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme. Drawing on this experience, Ian ensures our work is pertinent to the challenges faced by the communities within tea supply chains around the world.
Sarah oversees the running and strategic direction of ETP, ensuring that our work continues to create a fairer, better and more sustainable tea industry and leads to measurable improvements in people’s lives. With a background in development, strategic sustainability and corporate responsibility, she has worked on programmes across the world for the International Institute for Environment and Development. Sarah has also helped companies in very different industries improve their social and environmental impacts at a number of not for profit and large-scale consultancy firms.
Ishan oversees all our work in Sri Lanka. He brings a wealth of experience from his roles at Unilever and Dilmah. As well as extensive supply chain and procurement experience, Ishan was also responsible for a range of sustainability programmes.
Click here to learn how our activity in Sri Lanka is changing people’s lives.
Working on the ground with Rwandan tea workers and farmers, Janvier has a full understanding of the tea communities in this African country. He’s particularly well-versed in sustainability, having joined ETP from Vi Agroforestry – a Swedish development cooperation which promotes climate change awareness among farming communities.
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Supporting tea farmers in Malawi, Innocent works with them to improve the quality and productivity of the tea they produce and in turn improve household incomes. He has a wealth of experience in sustainable agriculture, natural resource management and economic empowerment interventions, having worked with Malawi’s Centre for Development Management and LTS International. Innocent has Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Malawi as well as a Masters in Environmental Studies obtained from the Catholic University of Malawi.
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Tea farmer Jane brings first-hand insights to her role in Kenya. Having worked for the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) for 7 years, she has extensive experience of working directly with farmers. A MBA in Strategic Management graduate, Jane also worked as Regional Manager for Ethical Business Services at Africa Now before joining ETP. Her thorough understanding of the tea industry and passion for change ensures that ETP’s activity in Kenya has real impact.
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Wagurah has long standing experience in improving sustainability in Africa. A graduate from Egerton University in Kenya and an expert trainer, he came to ETP having managed Corporate Social Responsibility at a major Kenyan exporter of fresh flowers. Bringing his sustainability experience to the tea sector, Wagurah continues to drive improvements in social and environmental practices in tea communities across Africa.
Nelia leads our activity in Indonesia, ensuring that ETP’s work is truly supporting tea workers and farmers as well as addressing environmental issues in tea communities. Nelia has extensive experience of the development sector in this Asian country, having worked at Plan International, Indonesia and managed projects with UNHCR and the US Department of Agriculture.
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Supporting those working and living in tea communities in India, Payal witnesses first-hand the challenges they face. She works closely with ETP’s global teams to help tea producers and farmers to meet internationally recognised social and environmental standards, and evaluate the impact of our on-the-ground programmes. A Masters graduate in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London, Payal completed her BA in Sociology at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
Click here to learn how our activity in India is changing people’s lives.
Vikram has an in-depth understanding of the tea industry, having worked around the globe for large tea plantation companies, including in North and South India, Malawi and other African countries. He began his career as a Management trainee at Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, one of the world’s largest plantation companies. Vikram’s executive career in the sector also includes time at major global tea producer Goodricke, where he spent nearly a decade. Vikram’s global experience and strategic approach ensures that our work in India truly improves the lives of tea communities.
By delivering our programmes to farmers on the ground, Jie has a true understanding of the issues Chinese tea farmers face. She has strong experience of training small-scale farmers in the field: Jie worked as a farmer trainer for UTZ, creating training materials during her time there. Her Masters from the Tea Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences further complements her knowledge of the sector.
Jame works directly with Chinese tea farmers to understand the challenges they face, and how best we can work to address these. He has a professional, working knowledge of tea processing and cultivation having obtained a Masters from the Tea Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and also majoring in Tea Science during his undergraduate degree at Hunan Agricultural University.
Leading our team in China, John works directly with tea communities to ensure ETP’s programmes have real impact in the country. Prior to joining, he worked as Ethical Compliance Manager at Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer’s and Walmart and measured the performance of over 1,000 factories against the Ethical Trading Initiative base code. He draws upon his strong experience and qualifications in sustainable supply chains to ensure that our work in China is pertinent to the tea sector there.
Working with the Child Protection Committees and Welfare Officers, Sangeeta has been able to visit the homes and families of vulnerable children to talk about the challenges those girls face.
She says, “we go house to house to inform parents that they shouldn’t marry their girls before 18 and their boys before 21 and this is illegal in Indian law”. Yet Sangeeta has seen some girls eloping at a young age with their boyfriends, resulting in teenage pregnancies. She says, “in most cases girls elope because there is domestic violence at home. To outsiders, it is just a young girl running away with a boy. But the reality is that at home there is alcohol and violence. Most of these marriages are an escape from that violence. The sad thing is they escape from one violent situation and end up in another”.
But with the support of the Girls Groups Sangeeta explores the challenges facing these young women and provides them with the support they need to pursue other options, such as staying on at school. By visiting their homes and families, Sangeeta is also ensuring that the girls’ families support them and encourages a whole new way of thinking about these adolescent girls’ futures on the tea estates.
She says, “we go to their house to tell them what we do in the group, how good it has been for us and if they allow their daughters to participate, it will only help her. That is how we negotiate”.
Nabanita was a tomboy growing up and won awards for being a good all-round student. When Ritamoni, a Unicef coordinator, set up the Girls Group on her estate, she realised her potential and that it wasn’t limited to the community: “she allowed us to hope for opportunities”.
The opportunities offered through the Group, such as football and creative arts workshops, were life-changing for Nabanita as they showcased how her talents could be harnessed. They saw her progress to playing sport at the district level and winning awards, “the exposure I have had to all these different platforms has been fantastic”.
Inspired by Ritamoni, Nabanita thought about becoming a social worker too and is now facilitating her Girls Group, “the most important thing for me is to instill good thoughts, to get them to think positively and change their outlook on their lives”.
Some people living in tea communities can struggle to see beyond life in the community. Nabanita wants the girls in her group to show their talents and participate in wider society: “I want to give the girls the opportunity to think that there is a wider world outside”.
Child marriage has reduced and school attendance increased since the Girls Groups have been introduced. One girl in Nabanita’s group stopped going to school, so Nabanita encouraged conversations about how fun school was, especially sports, “that girl really likes sports so we kind of enticed her with the idea that school is really fun, you should go!” She had a chance to think about it and when she went back home, told her parents she’d like to re-enroll and went back to school.
The younger the girls are when they join the group, the more positive impact the groups can have: “if we can start giving them those positive feelings and that positive reinforcement from an early age, they will grow up with those feelings and be so much more capable of accessing and using this platform really well”.