A person visiting the Thotalagala estate in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, where Tea So Tea is grown, will be greeted to the sights of a typical Ceylon tea plantation: the tea plants that resemble rolling green hills, colourful ladies picking tea leaves and a colonial style tea factory.
However, if the visitor continues to stroll around the estate they might also see an efficient garbage disposal system, rows of freshly painted houses, an English lesson being taught to a group of naughty children or a compost project which supplies the fertilizer needs of the estate.
All these projects are part of Tea So Tea’s fair trade initiatives. Tea So Tea is certified as Fair Trade. This guarantees a better deal for tea producers ensuring not only fair prices but fair wages and conditions for all those involved in the harvesting and production process.
Our Fair Trade projects are diverse and numerous.
Every year we run medical camps in different project areas giving local people access to medical professionals. Patients are given comprehensive advice along with prescription medicine and referrals for further treatment.
In the same manner, optical camps take place in different project areas. Local people have their eyes checked and prescription glasses are issued where they are needed. People with more serious eye problems are referred for further medical treatment.
The Fairtrade Premium
The Fairtrade Social Premium is paid directly by Fairtrade buyers to the Social Committee at the Thotalagala Estate in Sri Lanka. The Social Committee is made up of elected representatives of the estate workers and decisions about how to spend the Premium are made in consultation with everyone.
The Thotalagala Estate Manager sits on the Committee at the invitation of the workers.
In 2005, we embarked on our most ambitious fair trade project: to build a cultural hall for the community. Earlier estate workers had no access to a cultural hall and had to travel long distances for their functions.
The cultural hall, which opened in 2008, has been a huge success. Social functions, weekly meetings, clubs and classes are held in it. Educational seminars and programs are held quite regularly and religious festivities are also a common feature.
Compost and milk production
A team of estate workers conducts a project which produces the compost needed for the estate. Estate residents are encouraged to produce their own compost and contribute to this project.
All family units are given a cow. Milk from these cows is sold through a central estate milk shop giving the residents an extra income.
The estate also provides English language lessons for young people. This opens up a whole new world to them and widens their scope as they enter adulthood.
Tea So Tea had to overcome a myriad of administrative and practical problems when implementing these projects. Nevertheless, when we look around and see the way in which each project has visibly improved the lives of our workers we feel that our efforts are fully justified.
‘Fair trade money has been spent to create needs such as cultural halls’