The dense tea monoculture in Darjeeling has led to a declining tea production in the last decade as plantations have cleared hillsides of trees to maximize the acreage of tea bushes, causing erosion and a more rapid degradation of the rich soil that gives the tea its unique flavor. Planting fruit trees in these agricultural parcels optimized the tea production by creating biodynamic ecosystems, while helping producers to increase and diversify their incomes.
India exported 225.76 million kg of tea in 2013-14. India is the world’s second-biggest tea producer. Among the teas grown in India, Darjeeling tea offers distinctive characteristics of quality and flavor, and also a strong reputation for more than a century. But the dense tea monoculture in Darjeeling has led to a declining tea production in the last decade as plantations have cleared hillsides of trees to maximize the acreage of tea bushes, causing erosion and a more rapid soil degradation.
In the battle to cut costs, the fertility of the naturally thin soil has further been reduced by overuse of chemicals or washed away by landslides. Deforestation for tea is destroying the habitat of iconic local species, like the jaguar, and degrades the ecosystem on which tea production depends.
The objective of the project is to :
– create a biodynamic ecosystem that brings back optimal agricultural conditions for tea production: soil enrichment, erosion reduction, beneficial biodiversity (pest control), shading, retaining humidity… Hence ensuring the long-term quality and availability of Darjeeling tea;
– favor multi-crops and increase and diversify revenues for farmers, with a better distribution over time through additional short-term revenues from timber, fruit sales on the local market and development of other natural products;
– empower local farmers’ organizations with trainings and field workshops;
– improve food sovereignty and family diet with fruit plantations.
– be a socio-ecological model for other communities and tea plantations in Darjeeling district.
LocationDarjeeling province, India
Agroforestry and reforestation
Local partnerTPI Cooperative and DLR Prerna NGO
ParticipantsFair trade and organic tea farmers from Sanjukta Vikas Cooperative
Achievements7,500 trees planted (September 2014)
supply chainFruits and Vegetables , Tea
Our local partners in this project are:
The cooperative Tea Promoters of India (TPI): a pioneer in bringing environmental and social reform to the tea industry. TPI is supporting small tea farmers by helping them gain access to international market and a fair price for their tea. They promote holistic and sustainable farming practices restoring soil health, with trees, plants & animals reappearing in these areas.
And the NGO Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna (DLR PRERNA): a Darjeeling based NGO created in 2001. Their mission is to build sustainable human communities in the Darjeeling hills by promoting peoples participation, gender equality and living in harmony with the environment.
The participants are small-scale tea farmers from Sanjukta Vikas Cooperative. The Sanjukta Vikas Cooperative, was one of the first small farming initiatives in the plantation controlled region of Darjeeling. The land that cooperative members live on was a tea plantation in the early part of the century but abandoned in the 1950s. The community has since depended mostly upon subsistence farming of corn, millet, potatoes and vegetables.