Mineral Springs COOP

Darjeeling First Flush FTGFOP1, Mineral Springs Coop

KLEINBAUERNTEE: Zart, blumig, duftender Frünglingstee. Mit Liebe hergestellter Firts Flush von Bio-Kleinbauern. EInzigartig!
23,00 € / 500g
( Preis pro 1 kg 46,00 €)

NEU- Premium-First Flush Darjeelings von Kleinbauern

Endlich Qualitätstees aus Darjeeling von echten KLeinbauern! Spritzig und und unbeschwert wie der Frühling!
16,00 € / 100g
( Preis pro 1 kg 160,00 €)

Autumnal DARJEELING TGFOP, Kleinbauern COOP

SINGLE COOP-TEE: Charaktervoller, goldener Herbsttee, delikat und rund im Geschmack
18,50 € / 500g
( Preis pro 1 kg 37,00 €)

Bio-EARL GREEN vom Kleinbauern-Coop

Dieser mit Bergamotte-Aroma verfeinerte Grüntee ist besonders erfrischend !
18,50 € / 500g
( Preis pro 1 kg 37,00 €)

Bio-GRÜNTEE-vom Kleinbauern Coop aus Darjeeling

Toller Grüntee aus Kleinbauer Cooperative in Darjeeling
16,50 € / 500g
( Preis pro 1 kg 33,00 €)

Sonderpflückung: Gourmet SECOND FLUSH DARJEELING von Kleinbauern

Sonderpflückung  COOP-TEE: Vollmundig erlesene Aromafülle mit leichten Muskatton. Weicher, ansprechender Duft. Typisch für die Darjeeling Sommerernte
12,50 € / 50g
( Preis pro 1 kg 250,00 €)



 “ MINERAL SPRING ” a mainstream tea garden abandoned in early fifties revived now as a Small Farmers tea Project in partnership with TPI Selimbongis an example where it has been proved that organic and fair-trade is possible and very much successful and economically sustainable. This project run by the “Sanjukta Vikas Co-operative ”covers the busties of Harsing, Dabaipani, and Yangkhoo which lie on the Lebong Spur of the Darjeeling – Jalapahar Range, one of the great hill ranges radiating northwards towards Darjeeling from the central point, a saddle at Ghoom. Harsing is located 10kms away from Darjeeling town. Mineral Spring (Yangkhoo & Dabaipani) are further away across the valley, about 15kms. These areas come under Darjeeling Sub – division; Lebong II and Dabaipani Gram Panchayats.

Many brainstorming sessions facilitated by DLR Prerna, a Darjeeling based NGO, saw the birth of Sanjukta Vikas Co-operative. The members of SVC elect three to five members per hamlet to form a hamlet committee who are responsible for the functioning of the hamlets out of which president and secretary becomes the ex-officio representative of SVC board who are responsible for the governance and policy of the SVC. The members DLR Prerna have an advisory role with no voting powers. Again, from the five selected hamlet committees members one or two depending upon the requirement form another parallel committee called Green Leaf Tea Committee, which remain responsible of all activities related to green leaf tea of the co-operative. There was noticeable positive change in the community with the formation of the SVC. SVC has 450 farmer families where all the farmers own their own land.

SVC started selling teas in 1998 to Tea Promoters which has been processing and selling this as the first multi-cropping, co-operative based certified organic tea from Darjeeling. In this year the small farmers’ project was initiated in partnership with DLR Prerna where the green tea leaf of SVC was collected and processed by TPI in Selimbong, and marketed as Mineral spring co-operative tea. SVC was certified fair-trade in 2001. Mineral Spring is the first small farmers certified organic and fair trade labeled Darjeeling Tea which is produced by non-plantation farmers as a poly culture.

The Mineral Spring community have undergone positive change with increasing capacity to manage their development needs within their community.


Case Study by Equal Exchange, Scotland: Mineral Springs, Darjeeling

Abandoned by its former owners, the Mineral Springs tea garden in Darjeeling was reclaimed by a cooperative of local small-scale farmers in the late 1990s. A decade later, the Sanjukta Vikas Cooperative, in partnership with other pioneer organic tea farmers from the nearby Selimbong estate, offer a thriving alternative business model for the collapsing Indian tea industry.

A historical spiral of poverty

Mineral Springs is located high up in spectacular rolling hills just outside Darjeeling, with breathtaking views of the Himalayas. British owners abandoned the tea garden in the wake of Indian independence in 1947, leaving behind the descendants of 19th-century immigrants from Nepal who had first planted “the champagne of teas” on Darjeeling’s steep hillsides.

The workers continued to pluck and sell tea to neighbouring estates, but with lack of knowledge and expertise, the bushes grew gangly and unproductive. As hope for Mineral Springs’ revival faded, starving villagers uprooted much of the tea to make way for subsistence farms of millet and maize. As a result of the intensive tea cultivation on the plantation, the soil was very acidic, and with soil erosion and landslides caused by deforestation, farming the land became steadily more difficult. This is the case generally, where tea is still growing. The MS hillsides are now covered by a patchwork of forest that grew up amongst the tea bushes (40 years is a long time!) . Between the trees are many small farms.

Selling milk and firewood gave little relief to a worsening poverty and in 1996 most families were surviving on less than 12,000 rupees a year (US$275)[1]. Unsurprisingly, a survey carried out by a local development NGO reported that the villagers had “very low self-esteem and display an attitude of despair.” When asked their views on development priorities for their communities, 30 percent replied “no idea”[2].

Four decades on, and tea farming has made a comeback. Many families living in Mineral Springs grow tea and a variety of other crops including oranges, ginger, and maize. Confidence, enterprise and quality of life have blossomed, along with the acres of healthy tea bushes.

New possibilities

Change began in 1997 when a local NGO began to work with the villagers to form the Sanjukta Vikas Cooperative. At first the Coop sold milk and had a small credit union giving low interest loans to the villagers.

The NGO put the Coop in touch with Equal Exchange’s partner Tea Promoters India, a family-owned company which promotes organic agriculture and Fairtrade practices and has reestablished several tea gardens. With their support, the farmers committed to organic methods, having been practically organic default already as none of them were able to afford chemical pesticides or fertilizers. TPI undertook to buy the villagers' harvest for manufacture into Darjeeling tea and to supply and train the farmers in organic techniques including composting, pruning, and use of natural pesticides.They distributed grasses used for soil rehabilitation, and supplied nearly 5,000 tea saplings at a discount to help to re-establish production[3].

Working in partnership with Fair Trade organizations like Equal Exchange, tea from Mineral Gardens began to be sold abroad, as well as on the local market. The Cooperative was certified organic in 1999 and achieved Fairtrade certification in ?? (being checked) Sanjukta Vikas was the first non-plantation, cooperative tea supplier to be established in Darjeeling, and one of only 15 small-farmer tea licensees certified by FLO, the Fairtrade body. (Where did you get this number from? FTF? Is it worth saying out of how many? More impact?. Or comparing this to coffee where all a re small farmers?

Escaping the Tea Crisis

Due to changes in the global economy and poor management of the gardens, India’s tea industry — the livelihood for nearly 10 million people — is currently in recession. Previously workers in the tea fields understood the tea process and were a part of the running of the estates, but over time intensive manufacture led to the fragmentation (don’t like this word…..) of the workers, and quality declined. The collapse of the Soviet Union, a major importer of Indian tea, and growing competition from Kenya, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, have also had an impact.

The closure of tea gardens has accelerated, leaving thousands of workers unemployed and hungry. Reportedly more than 1,000 workers have died of starvation since 2002[4].

In this downward spiral for the tea industry, Mineral Springs offers a glimpse of hope, and new model for tea production. Tea from Sanjukta Vikas
is now sold across Europe and the USA and is used to make Equal Exchange’s Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Darjeeling Green, Bergamot Green, Jasmine Green and Lemon Green Teas. The garden now has it’s own office, and is developing a tea nursery and hopes to have its own small factory again so that one day Mineral Springs might once again process its own tea.

As well as providing a means to become self-sufficient economically, with tea providing a steady income throughout the March to October plucking season, Fairtrade has helped the villagers to gain self-confidence and business expertise. Many farmers are now branching into new areas and would love to sell their other products to the organic and Fairtrade market.

There have also been marked improvements to their standard of living. Fairtrade premiums have provided clean water in the form of a community drinking water supply (?), a community centre, tea storehouse, foot bridges and health education. On a recent visit to Mineral Springs, Andy Good, Managing Director of Equal Exchange, found that farmers were confident and enthusiastic about the success of their development and hoped for more in the future.

Farmers work together to improve tea quality and production, with workers from the nearby Selimbong estate visiting Mineral Springs to provide training in plucking and pruning of the tea bushes. Women have been particularly empowered within the Cooperative. Whereas traditionally women would not get involved in business, now they will attend and speak up in the Coop meetings, and sell milk directly to markets in Darjeeling rather than through middle-men.

While it remains a small-scale enterprise, with most farmers owning around 1.5 acres of land, the successful collaboration between community-owned (small holder is better) farms in Darjeeling, local Fair Trade exporters, and overseas Fair Trade importers demonstrates one route by which global markets, when combined with fair prices and local governance over use of natural resources, can benefit poor producers in developing nations.

A farmer’s story

Saran and Rita Chettri are small farmers who are members of Sanjukta Vikas Coop. They have four daughters and two sons. The eldest son helps on the farm after his studies. They now have 1,500 tea bushes on their three-acre farm, as well as growing ginger and cardamom and tending a few cows and goats.

They have been members of the Coop since 1998.One of the greatest benefits for Rita has been joining the women’s society five years ago, which enabled her to access loans to buy their livestock. They bought their cows at a rate of 12% interest per year, compared to rates of up to 10% per month available from Indian banks.

The Coop provided tea bushes, which are now starting to provide regular income for much of the year. They have also found that it has helped farmers and neighbours to work together, organizing meetings and developing a sense of community through solving common problems. Practical advice and encouragement had been provided for improving soil fertility for other crops too. Each small farmer now has a cow or two which produces manure , the cornerstone to improve their soil fertility under organic agriculture.


Equal Exchange

As one of the leading pioneers of the alternative trade movement since 1979, Equal Exchange is a co-operative dedicated to the promotion of Fairtrade and Organic food and drinks, ensuring a fair deal for farmers and the environment. It works in partnership with producers in seventeen countries including India, South Africa, Bolivia and El Salvador and has supported producers in some of the world’s poorest communities to create and build their businesses, look after their families and improve their lives through trade. Equal Exchange’s range of 100% natural, premium, Fairtrade and organic certified products includes single origin coffees, irresistibly healthy nuts, award-winning brazil nut oil, antioxidant-rich Rooibos tea, unpasteurised blossom and woodland honeys, sun-ripened sugar, single garden teas and Hispaniola cocoa. www.equalexchange.co.uk

Tea Promoters India

Tea Promoters India Pvt is a pioneering family owned company that grows, manufactures and exports top quality Darjeeling teas.They first cleared the weeds from the derelict Samebeong? garden in 1991 in partnership with the local community, creating the first organic tea garden in Darjeeling. This was the model garden on which the Fairtrade tea certification was based shortly after. They now manage 7 organic gardens in north India. Many were derelict or run down and unproductive before TPI took them over.

Communities in neighbouring villages have few opportunities for secure incomes. TPI realized early on that tea growing in partnership with the gardens could help long term security of income. Prem Tamang is the Tea Garden manager of TPI. (checking title) He is responsible for working with garden workers and with small-scale farmers creating additional opportunities for cultivation and eventual certification of organic tea.

TPI has demonstrated its philosophy of community and environmental responsibility secures livelihoods.

Picked and packed at origin

Equal Exchange are justifiably proud of pioneering their unique ‘picked and packed in India’ model for their Fairtrade certified teas. All tea is manufactured in the garden factories before trucking to port for export. But, unlike most teas on the British market, all Equal Exchange teas are packed into their final teabags and packaging in Calcutta prior to export.. TPI has developed a small modern packing unit and has access to high quality Indian packaging printers. The work provides regular and secure incomes and experience of creating consumer products for sophisticated European markets.

This is very good. Can you bring in the word sustainable…. In TPI usage it is holistic (another good word)… I want to reclaim the term from its predominant /conventional terms to describe ‘economically viable’. Our use should encompass environmental land use, soil improvement, watewr quality and the social and economic fabric of the communities that live 100% in these areas. Binod would say that he was a guardian of the production process on the gardens. The communities have to live there live out there! That creates responsibility.

[1] (RCDC 1996:4)

[2] (RCDC 1996:4)

[3] TPI 1999:1-2

[4] TBC

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