INDIA: Tea farmers receive financial support thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions
Farmers have harvested their first tea leaves and are making a profit.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (May 23, 2022) Tea farmers in the Tinsukia District, in the state of Assam, India, received financial support thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Thirty-five farmers are cultivating 7.59 hectares of land. Fourteen farmers have already harvested their first tea leaves and are making a profit. The farmers receive loans which help their gardens get started. They then repay the money from their harvest, which in turn allows Salesians to help more farmers.
Sukram Murah is already earning money from his garden. He said it was a great help to receive the financial support since he is a daily wage earner. In addition, Salesian technical farming training taught him how to plant more than one type of crop. As a result, he was able to receive double the income from the same plot of land. Along with tea leaves, Murah planted 80 betel nut plants in his tea garden.
Four other farmers also planted vegetables in their tea gardens, but due to excess rain this year, the crops were spoiled. The rain also killed 10-30 percent of eight other farmers’ crops. Salesian staff visited the gardens and after discussion, the farmers will replant the area. Some farmers also bought extra plants for vacant areas.
The first group of 14 tea farmers who received financial support have already started repaying their loans on an installment basis. When one of the tea beneficiaries passed away after suffering from major illness, his wife took over his tea garden and agreed to repay the loan amount. She works in a private tea garden to help support her family. Her eldest son is also a daily wage earner in one of the nearby towns. She thanked the Salesians for helping her family plant tea which will now help them get extra income from the land.
India is one of the largest tea producers in the world with close to 70 percent of its tea consumed within India itself. The Indian tea industry has grown to own many global tea brands and has evolved into one of the most technologically equipped tea industries in the world. The districts of Golaghat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia in Assam have a large number of tea estates.
The tea estates are tended to by laborers, who despite working long hours often do not earn enough wages to meet their basic needs or escape poverty. Many tea laborers own small parcels of land but, for various reasons, leave the land uncultivated while they leave home to work at larger tea estates. In times of financial crisis, they are often forced to mortgage their land for small loans. When they are unable to repay the loans, the land is forfeited. Salesian missionaries in India, aware of this difficult situation, are working to provide opportunities for tea laborers to break the cycle of poverty.
“The goal of the project is to help tea laborers begin to cultivate their land, allowing them to become owners of their own small tea gardens and develop a long-term sustainable income,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Tea laborers are provided start-up assistance either through financial resources or through the donation of tea saplings, which helps them to develop their own business and gain financial security.”
Salesian programs across India are primarily focused on education. Salesian primary and secondary education in the country helps youth prepare for later technical, vocational or university study. Other programs help to support poor youth and their families by meeting the basic needs of shelter, proper nutrition and medical care.
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