Small Tea Growers Sustainability Platform set up to improve smallholder livelihoods in India

IDH has launched the Small Tea Growers Sustainability Platform (STGSP) to work towards improving livelihoods for small tea growers in India in a collaborative manner. The Platform aims to close the living income gap by 20 percent, while also reducing the environmental footprint by 20 percent of around 40,000 Small Tea Growers.

STGSP brings together stakeholders in the industry – the government, civil society organizations, private sector, non-government organizations, small tea growers, and local communities – to work jointly towards transforming the tea value chain to support a decent standard of living for Small Tea Growers.

So far, organizations that joined the platform include the Tea Board of India; Amalgamated Plantations; Ethical Tea Partnership; Small Tea Grower Associations in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu; Vadham Tea; Department of Agriculture, Golaghat; Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Jorhat, Bosco Tea; and Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat.

The platform will adopt different approaches, including a market-driven approach to work with the small tea growers to increase their farm productivity, income diversification and enhancement; and thereby close their living income gap by 20 percent, while also reducing their environmental footprint by 20 percent.

During one of the Platform meetings, Dr. N. Sundardevan Nanjiah, retired Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer and chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu stated that there is a disjoint between the growers and processors and therefore there is a need for a mechanism to ensure that both the producers and the processors are equally benefitted.

Currently, STGSP is piloting Agri-Entrepreneur (AE) model in partnership with Syngenta Foundation India to provide quality services to small tea growers in an aggregated way, and also provide them market linkage opportunities. This model works towards building capacity at a rural level to involve young people in agri-business, while also supporting farmers in the region by providing them access to quality inputs, financial instruments, agronomic advisory, post-harvest management and market linkages.

The AEs are also providing field-level response to support the smallholder farmers. Extending support during the current COVID-19 situation, AEs in Golaghat were subsidizing transport for people in small tea grower communities and were creating awareness among them on topics such as maintaining personal hygiene and enforcing social distancing as advised by local and national health authorities. Further, the AEs have received vegetable seeds for their kitchen gardens and coconut seedlings from the District Agriculture Department in Golaghat, Assam,  for distribution to 4000 tea growers.

For a roll out in all locations, STGSP will engage local Implementation Partners (IPs) who will work in a cluster approach to deliver skill development training to the Agri-Entrepreneurs on agriculture, communication and business skills, through a structured 36-day training program.

By 2022, the platform aims to reach 40,000 small tea growers in the major tea growing regions country – including Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala – and train 400 AEs to work with small tea growers to improve their farm productivity, income diversification and profitability.