Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water. Originating from China, tea has become the preferred choice of drink in the past 2000 years and is loved by folks worldwide.
One of the largest tea producers in the world with a major chunk of tea estates in the state of Assam, it is interestingly to note that over 70 per cent of the produce is consumed within India itself.
However, over the years, the surplus demand for the beverage has resulted in the encroachment of vast expanses of forestlands for tea plantations; stretches that were once the natural habitat of elephants and other animals.
The loss of habitat and consequential human-elephant conflict has often led to the loss of life for both humans and elephants, leading to an alarmingly high dip in the numbers of the pachyderm population.
Fortunately, two small tea farms in the Udalguri district of Assam have received the certification for being elephant-friendly farms for their conscious effort towards elephant conservation in the region. In partnership with the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and the University of Montana in the US, this is the first time that any farm in the world has earned the certification.
“Our goal is to support conservation of elephants while providing opportunity for tea growers to obtain premium prices for their tea, based on the idea that consumers love great tea and want to make sure the tea they drink is not harmful to elephants. Conservation in every cup is our motto,” Julie Stein, executive director, Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, told The Telegraph.
With much of the plantations having eaten into their habitats, the elephants have ended up facing many tussles.
Reportedly, in Udalguri alone, around 14 elephants ended up losing their lives during conflicts, while over 52 humans perished in the last three years.
The farms that have been named after their owner, Tenzing Bodosa, share common space with the wild elephants. Grown by organic methods, the plantation stretches approximately over 20 acres and is interposed with trees.
“I plant all kinds of trees like guava, jackfruit and others for a perfect ecosystem. There are no big trenches or fencing in my farms, which provides an easy passage for movement of elephants,” Bodosa said.
The tag of certification is not just a namesake.
“The certified elephant-friendly tea is sourced from plantations that meet high standards for protection of elephant habitats and water resources, reducing human-elephant conflict, reducing barriers to elephant movement between habitat areas, elimination of electrocution risks from fencing and power lines, elimination of drainage ditch hazards and elimination of risk of poisoning of elephants”, Julie added.
Announced at the Balipara Foundation‘s Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics Forum in November last year, the Elephant Friendly Tea Certification Program took birth after much discussions over the concept of elephant-friendly tea in conjunction with the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group meeting.
Located in the Baksha district of Assam, the two farms at Khairani and Khachibari are within the range of 12km from each other and produce about 6,000kg of tea each.
You can write to Tenzing Bodosa at firstname.lastname@example.org.