International Tea Day: Reflecting on a year steeped in positive change

It’s often said there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a nice cup of tea and a sit down. But today — International Tea Day — we’d like to offer something extra with your brew as we share a taste of the key achievements of our work in the tea industry over 2018.

This is the result of the collaboration with our partners in many different projects across the global tea value chain targeting better livelihoods for tea workers and smallholder farmers. We are pleased to share with you 2 different case studies on Service Delivery Models (SDM), a new way of looking at strengthening smallholder inclusion in the tea supply chain. Also, we wish to share with you a newly developed Roadmap to address gender based violence on tea plantations.

What we have achieved

New SDM insights on improving loyalty and income
Following our interventions in Tanzania and Rwanda, we now have a broad range of insights on how we can further improve service delivery to tea farmers with the goal of improving performance and ultimately profitability and livelihoods. As an example, our analysis undertaken with Unilever Tea Tanzania has shown that quality bonus payments, coupled with training and strict quality requirements, attracts farmers to the SDM and improves loyalty rates.

In Rwanda, through our partnership with the Wood Foundation Africa, we have found that investing in direct relationships with the farmers also positively influences farmer loyalty and moreover leads to factories achieving real and direct results in terms of farmers’ incomes. The end goal of the project – handing over ownership to the smallholder farmers – ensured a professional and business-focused model.

A plantation roadmap to address gender based violence in Kenya
Gender based violence and sexual harassment have been a key focus area for us in the Kenyan tea sector. Following collaboration with partners we are proud to share the Plantation Roadmap: a practical document that provides information to tea companies on how to recognize issues around gender based violence and sexual harassment, and to develop sustainable interventions to prevent and respond accordingly.

Click here for the Roadmap

New frameworks, new models, and new innovations across the globe
In the Malawi Tea 2020 program, one of our goals in 2018 has been to provide a framework that can inform buyer contribution towards a living wage through a sustainable procurement model. The aim is to achieve an outcome rooted in the commercial realities of the tea industry, which is acceptable for both buyers and producers, while delivering a clear and measurable impact to tea workers.

In Kenya, together with the Gender Empowerment Platform members, we’ve developed a proposal to establish a Safe Hub for survivors of gender based violence; a space in the community where women, children, and men feel physically and emotionally safe and where they can find necessary support from local duty bearers such as the judiciary.

We also achieved several milestones in the South West Mau Forest in Kenya where we work with our partners to conserve and restore 60,000 hectares, as a crucial water tower to the tea industry. So far we have brought together a unique public-private partnership, piloted our livestock intensification work and rehabilitated over 200 hectares of forest.

In India, we began the second of the ‘Improving lives of women and children in Assam’s tea communities’ program, addressing a broader range of issues affecting women, adolescents, children, and the community living in 205 tea gardens, and reaching more than 250,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries.

We also published ‘Stories from the Field’, highlighting insights on improvements for factories, gardens, workers and small tea-growers brought about through the trustea program.

Together with our partners GAIN and Unilever, we have reached 300,000 people in tea farming communities in Tamil Nadu, Assam and Kenya. Also, amongst other results, program participants viewed the Seeds of Prosperity program positively and reported feeling increased loyalty to employers.

For more of our joint achievements with our partners, click on the map below:


Where we are going

Global Tea Coalition

In 2019, we will continue to define and deploy a new global sustainability agenda for the tea sector. In collaboration with the Ethical Tea Partnership and New Foresight, we will further co-lead the discussions on a Global Tea Coalition of producers and packers.

Living wage 

IDH will continue to support the Malawi Tea 2020 program through our convenor role and by co-financing multiple field level projects. Living wage will become an even more important area of focus for us across different sectors. We will put more resources into standardizing our interventions on living wage, including the development of sector wide living wage dashboards and sense making of transition paths to living wage. We will seek partnership to progress the living wage journey in tea beyond the countries we have been working so far.

In addition to working in Malawi on living wages, we will scope a landscape program for Mulanje, Malawi after initial talks to stakeholders with a vested interest in this threatened landscape.

Smallholder inclusion

Our continued goal is to work together with the tea industry to make smallholder service delivery futureproof. Together with IDH Farmfit Business Support, we will take this to the next level. We aim to conduct a number of SDMs throughout the tea industry, focusing on East Africa and India. The learnings from analyses of our work in Tanzania and Rwanda will be used to further enhance smallholder inclusion programs across the globe.

In Tanzania, we will also start another phase of the Mufindi Outgrowers Project (MOG) to work towards a sustainable and self-sustaining service delivery model in 2020.

In Vietnam, we are addressing health and safety issues that affect smallholder farmers. Together with international buyers, the government and domestic tea companies, we are working towards a sector-broad program addressing responsible agrochemical management. This is building on the successes of our previous interventions, such as the Agri-team model.

Gender equality & empowerment
Through the Gender Empowerment Platform in Kenya, we will continue to work with the Kenyan tea industry to address gender issues with a focus on increasing activities on the ground and driving a shared agenda on safe spaces — with special focus on facilitating a combined effort from the Gender Empowerment Platform and county governments.

We also aim to roll out the Plantation Roadmap across East Africa and India to continuously support businesses in addressing issues of workplace safety and gender on their plantations, including the surrounding communities of dependents and smallholders.

In addition, we will focus on integrating a gender lens into financial inclusion programs for both workers and smallholder farmers. In support of this, together with BSR, we have developed a set of recommendations for bringing a gender lens to financial inclusion program and empowering women to make financial decisions.

Thank you for joining us on the journey

Transforming the tea industry is a journey — one we definitely cannot undertake alone. We would like to thank all our partners for their perseverance, commitment, and contributions over the last year. Let’s work together to make 2019 an even stronger blend of success and progress.