On 21 May, 2020 the world commemorated International Tea Day to celebrate the world’s most consumed drink, after water. People have been drinking tea for at least 5000 years, but for smallholder women farmers in Malla Satinaugaon, India, producing chamomile tea is an innovative new means of sustaining their livelihoods. In the headwaters of the Ganges river basin, 1500 metres up in India’s Kumaon Himalayas, chamomile production is helping to improve incomes for the growing number of women-headed households in Uttarakhand State. Tulsi Devi, her daughter, Dhana, and the other women in their self-help group have pioneered the cultivation of chamomile in these mountains.
In this predominantly rural area, the village of Malla Satinaugaon is typical in the challenges it faces of male outmigration and poor food security, caused by the degradation of fragile ecosystems. Although not a traditional product in this area, chamomile was introduced to women farmers in 2015 by the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation as a climate resilient crop that could generate additional income during winter.
Tulsi and Dhana, both locals of Malla Satinaugaon, were lead farmers and spearheaded the first two trial seasons of growing chamomile in their area. Based on the Tulsi and Dhana’s success in growing chamomile, they were able to motivate 38 other members of the self-help groups to incorporate chamomile into their cropping cycle. Today, more than 100 farmers in 13 villages of the river basin are growing chamomile as a value-added crop and have earned solid additional farm income over the past few seasons.
With the other village women, they grow and hand-pick the chamomile before passing it on to the Mahila Umang Producers Company (Umang) - a federation of 200 self-help women’s groups - to be sun-dried and processed into herbal tea. Tulsi and Dhana are active producer-members and shareholders of Umang. According to them, being involved in the group has not only boosted their household income but has also given them an opportunity to engage with the world through their chamomile.
All these women belong to local Participatory Guarantee System groups, which ensure the organic qualities of the product. Chamomile tea has been granted the Mountain Partnership Products label, bringing benefits to both women farmers and smallscale processors. The market reach looks set to expand further following the launch of the tea at the opening of a large organic food restaurant in New Delhi, India, owned by the Hyatt Group, where it is now on sale. The chamomile tea has also been showcased at weekly farmers markets in New Delhi, as well as in Umang stores in Himachal Pradesh, New Delhi and Uttarakhand, where it is actively promoted among regular customers.
Source: Mountain Partnership