On a recent field visit to India, Bärbel Weiligmann – Special Advisor for Global Value Chains at GAIN – saw first-hand the multiple benefits that the Seeds of Prosperity project has on improving nutrition for tea farming families.
On my trip to Assam, I visited tea gardens in varying stages of the project. My first visit was to the Deamoolie tea garden where the master trainers have completed their training and are now in the process of teaching other farmers and workers, as well as their families. The master trainers were highly regarded by the tea farmers and their families and they were aware of the service they are providing by sharing knowledge on nutrition with their communities. I spoke with James Baruah from Desam tea garden who said the Seeds of Prosperity program is a “powerful program through which we can create awareness, and motivate farmers and their families for a better life-style”.
My next visit was to the Tengpani and Bazaloni tea gardens where the project is in its initial phase. Here, we had some good discussions on the mutual benefits that the program has for both the business and employees, whilst showing the businesses care about employee well-being too. This was also emphasized by nutrition coordinator Daizy Bori: “If we support the tea farming families to improve their nutrition, they are more productive.” Pollobi Bori realized: “Healthier people are less often absent and are able to take better care of their families.”
The impact of the program was highlighted for me in another way when I spoke to a participant who told me how the health of her children had improved since joining the program. She said her children had gained weight and had become much stronger. Although we haven’t been able to measure if this is a direct effect of the program, it is great that people are seeing improvements to their health. I also found the additional benefit of women’s empowerment striking with many women now becoming master trainers through the program.
Good nutrition is so important for people everywhere. I witnessed how powerful the Seeds of Prosperity program is and how it can contribute to improving people’s lives. As Jini Topp from Zaloni tea garden said, “Eating 5 food groups a day supports our health and frees up our mind”.
That really is true, and sometimes it just requires that extra bit of knowledge to make a real difference.
A diverse diet – one incorporating many food groups – is a key factor to maintaining good health. For some smallholder farmers, despite managing 80% of farmland in Asia and Africa, they often sell their most nutritious foods and eat starchy foods such as rice, bread and wheat, which are inexpensive and filling, but lack key nutrients.
The Seeds of Prosperity project, a collaboration between GAIN, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), and Unilever, works through commodity supply chains to improve workers’ diets and hygiene practices. After a successful pilot – co-created with Solidaridad – in the Tamil Nadu region in India, the program is now being replicated in tea farming communities in the Assam region in India and in Kenya. Currently, Solidaridad is training over 50 master trainers at six different tea gardens in the Assam region in India. These master trainers will then in turn train over 3,500 tea farming families to help achieve better nutrition through a diverse diet.