Tag Archives: Tea

Third place of SAN Photo Contest merges photography and agriculture into his life

Third place of SAN Photo Contest merges photography and agriculture into his life

Niraj Mani Chourasia

Niraj Mani Chourasia is the third place winner of the SAN Photo Contest. His winning photo details an ant carrying a drop of water and was taken in the certified tea estate Nonaipara, in India.

Niraj has been working in the farm for over a year and on a daily basis he is supervising plucking and other Garden operations. He is also in charge of the well-being of the rest of the workers and motivates them to follow the sustainability principles.

But above all, Niraj is as passionate as can be about sustainability and photography. The SAN talked with Niraj about his two passions:

SAN: Tell us the story behind your photo

Niraj Mani Chourasia: I am lucky to capture this mesmerizing event through my camera’s lens just after the rain. In this Garden ants and other flora and fauna can be seen because of ecological balance.

This picture indicates two different sides of a story. Firstly, it shows the importance & power of water to nurture the whole garden, and is also giving a warning by capturing the movement of the ant because of gravitational pull, indicating a two way sword kind of issue, if water conservation is not considered seriously.

Third place winner photo

It is our responsibility to hold the water, when our life is being hold by water. At this moment, it is the demand of time and we should handle the situation. The way the photo balances between both scenarios shows how any unbalance can cause casualties.

SAN: So photography means a lot to you

NMC: Yes, it is a mean for self-discovery & realization for me. I feel that I just help nature to convey the message through my photos. It has also spark some interest in identifying species of flora and fauna in the Garden.

SAN: And working in a certified farm, what do you think is the most important thing you do to achieve sustainability?

NMC: I think the most important thing about certification is being organized, disciplined, effective, more productive and responsible for what we do in a regular basis.

Certification has help us with our continual improvement and with the removal of wastage and implementation of sustainable techniques.

SAN: What is the most difficult thing for farmers throughout the process of certification and working towards sustainability?

NMC: In my opinion only lack of knowledge and insight to see the benefits of certification. It is not difficult, you just need dedication and willingness to go for it.

SAN: In your opinion, how certification has improve your farm?

NMC: Before certification, there was less awareness among the people regarding sustainability, natural conservation and the systematic approach to handle the work.

But after certification, now we have developed many standard procedure for handling any particular type of job in an effective & productive way. The training has raised the awareness among the people and has touched every single individual in my team.

You can check out some of Niraj’s photos in this gallery:

The Rainforest Alliance Responds to New Report on Working Conditions on Tea Farms in India

The Rainforest Alliance Responds to New Report on Working Conditions on Tea Farms in India

The Rainforest Alliance acknowledges the recent report by the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) on working conditions on tea estates in India currently certified by the Rainforest Alliance in accordance with the standards set forth by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN).

Many of the report’s recommendations are built into the existing SAN standard—however we welcome the findings of the paper published on 30 August 2016, A Cup Half Empty and appreciate the ICN’s efforts to highlight the deeply rooted and systematic issues that are prevalent in the tea sector.

We will take these recommendations into consideration as we continue our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement and look forward to working with the ICN and the industry as a whole towards better social and environmental outcomes in the Indian tea sector.

Further inquiries can be sent to comms@ra.org

How certified tea farms are doing it better

How certified tea farms are doing it better

Originating in China, tea is now grown most widely in India, China and Kenya. Current environmental challenges associated with tea farming include soil erosion, overuse of fertilizers and agrochemicals, and the inefficient use of woodfuel in the tea drying process, leading indirectly to deforestation. Key social challenges in many parts of the sector include low wage levels for workers, lack of protection of workers’ rights, low income levels for smallholder tea producers, and limited access to quality housing, health care, and other basic needs.

The SAN/Rainforest Alliance system seeks to address these challenges through social, environmental and agronomic criteria in the SAN Standard; training and support to tea farmers by SAN members and their partners; and work with tea value chain partners to link demand for sustainably-produced tea with on-the-ground sustainability investments.


SAN/Rainforest Alliance tea certification has expanded dramatically over the past five years. Supported by sustainable sourcing commitments by Unilever (Lipton and PG Tips brands), Taylors of Harrogate (Yorkshire Tea brand), Tata Global Beverages (Tetley Tea brand), Teekanne Tee, Typhoo Tea and others, the volume of Rainforest Alliance Certified tea produced has increased from 123,000 metric tons (MT) in 2010 to more than 800,000 MT by the end of 2014. By the end of 2014, Rainforest Alliance Certified tea was being produced in 18 countries.

On our first impacts report, we present studies that compare farming practices on certified tea farms with those on a comparable control group of non-certified coffee farms. Second, we document changes in certified farms practices over time, using information available from annual audit reports.

There are four studies evaluating practice adoption on Rainforest Alliance Certified tea farms in Kenya and India, indicate that certified farms are applying an array of good practices for environmental, agronomic and social management at significantly higher rates than non-certified farms. These practices address several sustainability topics, including:

Practices to protect water quality:

— Maintaining protective buffer strips along water bodies

— Monitoring river water quality

— Prohibiting the application of agrochemicals within 15 meters of water

Practices to improve farm productivity, agronomy and waste management:

— Plucking tea leaves frequently

— Applying composted manure frequently

— Keeping records on farm inputs and production

Practices to safeguard tea worker health and safety:

— Providing worker access to water on the farm

— Providing access to medical and educational facilities

— Educating workers on health issues


auditoria tea

To provide additional insight into changes in specific practices associated with certification, we used time-series data contained in SAN/Rainforest Alliance certification audit reports for certified tea farms in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania. We identified all criteria for which auditors issued a non-conformity at the time of the first audit (in 2011 or later), and then tracked these non-conformities over all subsequent audits (up to 2014) to determine which had been eliminated by the time of the most recent audit, on average 18 months later. Elimination of a non-conformity indicates an improvement in farm practices related to the requirements of the criterion.


Key Outcomes and Broader Impacts

Productivity, Tea Leaf Quality, and Farmer Income:

— Researchers in Kenya compared 93 tea farmers who had received training on the SAN Standard and tea production best practices with 48 tea farmers that had not received training. They found tea leaf quality (as indicated by the number of rejections at collection centers) increased significantly after training focused on practices in the SAN Standard

Farmers who had received training reported that their livelihoods had improved and that increased productivity was a benefit of training; farmers that had not received training did not report such improvements


— For a study in Tamil Nadu, India, researchers interviewed 400 farm workers on seven Rainforest Alliance Certified tea estates and one non-certified estate. For the hired farm workers who pluck tea leaves, the annual income estimates that researchers calculated for workers on certified estates were significantly higher than those for workers on non-certified estates, as was the hourly rate for overtime

Health, Household Management, and Education:

— In Kenya, farmers who received training on best practices in the SAN Standard reported fewer ailments, which they attributed to the safer use of agrochemicals

— On certified India estates, 56 percent of female workers and 58 percent of male workers reported experiencing positive changes to their health; for non-certified workers, these rates were only 40 percent and 13 percent for female and male workers, respectively

— Research in India found that workers on Rainforest Alliance Certified estates were significantly more satisfied with their housing than workers on non-certified estates

Benina, an exemplary producer

Benina, an exemplary producer

Benina is 68 years old, has five adult children and 1.5 hectares of land in the town of Gituamba, about 80 km from Nairobi. And she is an exemplary certified producer.

On half a hectare, this women, who is also a grandmother, grows tea and sells it to the Kambaa factory. She is one of the 5,000 producer associates in this group that is certified under the SAN Sustainable Agriculture Standard since May 2013.

The rest of the land, one hectare, is occupied by her house and other crops such as potatoes, cabbage, avocado and stevia, and a small barn for her three cows.

For Benina, the training that she has received from the group administrators in order to comply with the SAN/Rainforest Alliance certification, has been a radical change in her life.


On the wall of her living room hangs a black and white photograph of her marriage. In the impeccable room there are several tables covered with hand-women mats. She proudly shows her simple home while telling us that all her children grew up here, that they had all had gone to university and all now live in Nairobi or other cities, but they visit her often.

When her children grew up, Benina decided to grow tea and in recent years she has been a very active producer in the training the plant provides to its associates.

The plant’s extension agents, who train the producers, consider Benina an exemplary case, and they say that training the women gives exceptional results, because they teach everything they learn to their children and neighbors.

With a shy smile, Benina says that thanks to certification, she learned to collect and store water in a tank that she was able to install with help from the cooperative and she also learned to separate her wastes into inorganic, organic (for making compost) and plastic (to recycle).

She also learned the best techniques for tending her tea bushes, which agrochemicals are very toxic and must not be used, and how to correctly apply the ones that are allowed as well as store them safely.

But for her, the most important thing is that she learned how to generate biogas from her cows’ manure. Thanks to this biogas, she now has energy for her home, and most importantly, she could stop cooking with firewood so she no longer has to cope with the smoke in the small closed room that is her kitchen.

Benina manages all her crops, her cows and her home in a sustainable way. She hires several people to help her pick the tea leaves on her parcel and she transmits her knowledge to them, like the other women of her community.




The Kambaa factory family

Kambaa is one of the member plants of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which unites more than half a million small farmers in this East African country.

The plant was founded in 1974 to process fewer than 10,000 tons of green tea leaves per year, but today its annual production exceeds 15,000 tons of tea leaves.

Leonard Njogu, the production manager, explains that they have 5,000 producer associates whose combined production area equals 1,744 hectares. Forty percent of Kambaa’s production is exported, 60% is consumed in the local market.

But this plant is a big family where the producers not only sell their harvest, they have an active and determinant role in decision-making. According to Njogu, the plant’s Board of Directors is elected and made up of the producers themselves. Furthermore, the farmers are members of various working committees.

“Our producers are present at all decision levels, from the picking of the tea to executive decisions,” he says.

The plant administration, through Field Services Coordination, provides ongoing training to producers and carries out reforestation activities. In the last year, for example, they planted 80,000 native trees.

According to Susan Kagai, coordinator of this area, at least two field school sessions are organized monthly, where producers like Benina attend to learn about subjects such as the prohibition of hunting; how to avoid wasting water and store it properly; safe handling of agrochemicals; the use of personal protection equipment; separation of wastes; and the production of crops for consumption in addition to tea.

“The producers are constantly asking us about training on matters of interest to them, such as empowerment, best practices, biogas production, milk production and fish ponds, personal health, and much more. We try to address all their requests,” Kagai said.

This entire effort keeps the producers motivated and this is reflected in better results for the plant, which last year produced 3,300 tons of tea, with a productivity of 2,333 kg per hectare. For this year, however, they project 10% growth in their production.

“Once you know the benefits of certification, you don’t want to lose it. Perhaps the passion that our producers now have is the best achievement. Our field schools already have 400 graduates who are transmitting their knowledge to others. Even without market incentives, we feel that this is a very good standard that has helped us become better producers,” said Njogu.

Making Water Safe for Tea Workers in Burundi

Making Water Safe for Tea Workers in Burundi

Water: it’s something you don’t think much about unless you don’t have enough of it. In Burundi—one of the world’s five poorest countries—the lack of potable water is a major factor in widespread illness and even death. p1010278

The Rainforest Alliance is working with the Ijenda and Rwegura tea factories in northwest Burundi to improve water, sanitation and hygiene standards for its 25,000 smallholder tea farmers. The WASH protocols, as they are known, are a standard component of Rainforest Alliance training, as well as worker safety protections, quality improvements, and strategies to increase revenues.

“Before the Rainforest Alliance program,” says tea plucker Jean-Claude Havyrinfura, “We were drinking unsafe water located more than one kilometer away. Now, each tea block has its own source.”

For years, the two factories used to release waste water from tea processing directly into nearby rivers. After the Rainforest Alliance training, a lagoon filtration system filters solid waste out before the water flows back into local streams and rivers. Another critically important improvement in a country with such poor water access: in both work and housing areas, the toilets and washroom facilities have been rehabilitated, and workers now have access to safe drinking water.

“When you visit a Rainforest Alliance Certified farmer, you directly see the difference,” says Madaleine Nyandwi, who owns a tea farm near Kibira National Park, a biodiversity hotspot. “The trees, cleanness, agrochemicals and rainwater management—everything has improved. We are feeling better.”