Multi-stakeholder Dialogue Addresses Living Income Challenges in Assam’s Tea Sector

The Small Tea Grower Sustainability Program (STGSP) convened its second multi-stakeholder meeting on 12th December 2023 to collaboratively chart an action plan for achieving a ‘living income’ in Assam’s tea sector. The initial round of dialogue, held in August 2023 in Dibrugarh, laid the groundwork for uniting diverse stakeholders in a shared understanding of living income.

Assam stands as the largest tea-growing region in India, annually producing over 700 million kilograms of tea. With 120,000 STGs in 2022, contributing 52% to the total tea output, Small Tea Growers play a vital role in sustaining households and significantly contributing to the economy. However, challenges persist for many STGs, operating as subsistence farmers facing aggregation issues, vulnerability to price volatility, and a lack of capacity to cope with climate change shocks.

IDH, through its Small Tea Growers’ Sustainability Program (STGSP), is actively engaged with 30,000 STGs in Assam and West Bengal, working towards closing the living income gap. The program focuses on enhancing productivity, facilitating market linkages, and creating access to finance.

The second round of dialogue delved deeper into the living income concept and built on the momentum generated. Discussions revolved around creating an inclusive supply chain through innovative service delivery approaches, piloting new business models, and exploring income diversification for enhanced resilience in STG households, contributing to a resilient tea sector and supply chain.

Recognising the complexity of challenges faced by STGs, participants highlighted the need for a ‘smart mix of strategies’ that surpasses pricing and farm behaviours. A collaborative approach among all ecosystem players is crucial for a long-lasting impact on the ground. Stakeholders unanimously emphasised that this ‘smart mix of strategies’ must be complemented by ‘multi-stakeholder action’ to create a win-win scenario for all ecosystem players.

The event witnessed the participation of various stakeholders from the tea ecosystem, including representatives from All Assam Small Tea Growers Association (AASTGA), Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA), Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers Association, Ethical Tea Partnership, GIZ, and many others.

STGSP has already impacted over 30,000 small tea growers by 2022 and aims to improve the income of 35,000 STGs by 2025. Through enhancing household incomes, fostering sustainable practices, and exploring new economic avenues, the program strives to transform the lives of small tea growers and contribute to the sustainable growth of the tea industry.