Originally published by Unilever in 2021
What makes a great cuppa? Taste? Ingredients? Good company? On International Tea Day , we celebrate the role of tea beyond refreshment – in sustaining the livelihoods and communities that help us take this crop from bush to cup.
Connecting tea lovers, supporting communities
Every day, we touch the lives of around 621 million tea lovers who enjoy our brews. We work hard to make sure every cup of tea doesn’t just taste good, it does good – from enhancing wellbeing to making a real difference to the farmers and communities that make it all possible.
Many people couldn’t do without their daily cuppa. But many more depend on tea for their income. At ekaterra, we’re proud to support more than 1 million people in 21 countries in improving their livelihoods and local environments.
Here are just four of the ways we’re making a difference.
Putting change and sustainability on the menu
Smallholder farmers rely on their plots for food to sell and for their families to eat. Unfortunately, their best crops often go to market and not onto their plates.
We’re working with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and partners such as Dharma Life and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP ), to help farmers, workers and their families eat healthier foods.
We’re delivering training sessions which explain the benefits of planting lots of different crops and growing ‘biofortified’ staples with enhanced nutrition. The programmes are on track to reach 89,000 estate workers in Assam and 26,000 smallholders in Kenya to help improve diet and nutrition.
Empowering women to earn more
In Kenya we’ve been working to help tea farmers earn more money and supporting farmer field schools across the country. These schools train farmers in sustainable practices to grow more, better quality food. Farmers also get to earn the Rainforest Alliance Certification – a respected seal of approval for their tea. We’re also working with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to train women in good farming practices. They’ll soon get lots of seedlings from their new tea nurseries, and access to village savings and loans to give them a financial boost.
Keeping women safe
We’re supporting much needed women’s safety initiatives in Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya – alongside governments, women’s rights organisations, NGOs and other partners, guided by the UN Women’s Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces (PDF | 7MB) .
We’re also working with producers and other partners in India to enhance women’s safety through the Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund, managed by IDH .
Women make up more than 60% of the workforce in tea plantations – and many also work on smallholder farmers in the sector. We’ll keep engaging with communities and empowering women and girls to live and work free from sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.
Protecting and nurturing the land for future generations
Tea workers and farmers depend on the land to grow their tea. We’re committed to nurturing it for future generations and to building on programmes sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices. These include improving soil and crop quality, biodiversity, tea plant breeding and reforestation. More than 10% of our Kericho tea estate in Kenya, for example, is covered in indigenous trees. Over the past years, we’ve planted 1.4 million trees across the estates and through donations of trees to local communities. Through a joint initiative with the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA) we’re also working to restore and conserve 60,000 hectares of the South West Mau Forest (PDF | 998KB) by 2030 through end-to-end landscape management.
We’re proud of the part we’ve played in building a more sustainable tea industry and the partnerships that make it possible. Together, we’re growing a world of wellbeing through the incredible power of plants – for nature, farmers and tea lovers everywhere.