By Leif Rawson-Ahern, Tea Supply Chain Developer
On September 8, the BBC posted a heartbreaking account of the living and working conditions at the Doomur Dullung plantation, in Assam, India. BBC journalists uncovered tea plantation workers and their families living and working in shocking conditions. They found workers living in dilapidated homes with no access to toilets and drinking water contaminated by raw sewage. Child labor violations, dangerous working conditions, and rampant malnutrition and disease were all too-commonly reported and verified.
Unfortunately, we know through our work in tea, that this reality has been going on for far too long, is widespread, and well known. Dominated by large multinational companies, the tea industry remains one of the last vestiges of the British colonial era. It’s outrageous that this system of vast exploitative plantations has remained unchanged – and unchallenged – since the 1800s.
That’s why Equal Exchange is working to build an alternative tea model, one that challenges the conventional industry and supports small-scale tea farming co-operatives and their communities. We’re proud to partner with growers in India, South Africa and Sri Lanka to forge a more equitable system that is built on farmer empowerment, ownership, and control. You can read more here about our revolutionary tea partners, like the Potong Tea Garden in Darjeeling, India. Once a colonial plantation, the Potong Tea Garden is now collectively run and majority-owned by its workers. Together, they are paving a stronger, more democratic path forward for their families and community. Groups like Potong show us that a more equitable model in tea can be achieved.
The Equal Exchange small farmer tea line was created to prove that a different tea model is possible. We invite you to join with us to raise awareness about the inequalities and injustice in the tea system and to make a positive choice when you make your next tea purchase.
Read the full story and watch the videos from the BBC here.