Success Stories

On a journey to find contentment at home

The story of a small tea farmer’s struggle to find employment in his own village while pursuing his passion for tea.


 Life is indeed difficult for people staying in the Indo-Bhutan foothills area with problems of water, communication, network connectivity and human-elephant conflict hampering their lives. These conditions add to the woes of small tea farmers who often also do not know the best practices related to tea cultivation. The socio-economic challenges of the place force tea farmers to abandon their businesses and migrate to larger cities in search of better employment opportunities. Learning ways for sustainable cultivation can prevent rural-urban migration and subsequently lead to employment generation for others in the community.
Sasadhar Das, a resident of Rajagarh area in Udalguri district, is seen leaving his home and walking towards his tea garden. He seems to be enjoying the chill in the air and his gait is defined by a distinct rhythm. Contentment is written all over his face but, it wasn’t always like this. He faced several challenges that had once made him turn away from his tea garden. “Just three days prior to my class tenth examinations I was picked up by the Army and sent to jail where
I stayed for three days” he says recounting the ordeal. The year was 1991 and army operations and militancy were at its height. Moreover, the financial health of his family was not suitable to let him pursue his studies further. To support his family, he left for Guwahati in search of a job and in the meantime also managed to clear his class tenth examinations. He returned to Udalguri in 2004 after the situation had substantially improved. Back in his village, the only possible source of employment awaiting him was the work in his own tea garden. He was passionate to take up the responsibilities of tea cultivation but unfortunately did not
know much about it. “I had to face several challenges at every step but I never let the situation get the better of me,” he says.

Going back to tea cultivation
Sasadhar has a ten bigha small tea garden known as “Sasadhar Das Small Tea Garden”. The garden is around 7-8 km from the Bhutan border. The first small tea garden in Udalguri was established in 1992, since then tea cultivation has become the chosen profession for several unemployed youths in the area. “Every household in village is dependent on tea cultivation for their employment but lacks knowledge on scientific approaches in tea resulting in low productivity and structural degradation of soil. TRINITEA seeks to mitigate this gap by organising different trainings to educate the farmers about the different
aspects and approaches for tea cultivation,” says Bijit Borkotaky, program officer, Solidaridad.

Solidaridad with two Program Officers based in Udalguri have kept four Community Mobilisers for the TRINITEA Programme, to organise and provide training to needy small tea growers on field. TRINITEA experts also provide soil sample collection training to growers after which the collected samples are sent for testing to NABL accredited labs.

Sasadhar humbly credits TRINITEA for his achievements, “Tea cultivation, I now know, is heavily dependent upon implementing the right techniques. The advice on good agricultural practices, pruning, chemical application and fertilizers helped me to understand my shortcomings and work efficiently in the garden,” he said. Although Sasadhar feels more confident about the trade having understood the land and crop requirements much better, he is still troubled by the elephants that come to the tea gardens in search of food and has to watch out for them throughout the day. “A constant vigil is required. Sometimes they move away and on some occasions they stay for the night,” he says. Sasadhar’s tea garden has become his pride and joy, “Tea cultivation has given me social importance. My search for stable employment led me to travel far and wide, I could never believe that my search would culminate in my own village,” says the 47 year old. His future ambition is to make his garden completely organic and he has already started working towards this dream – “Two bighas out of ten
bighas are already organic as no chemicals are being used. Along with personal profit I also wish to contribute towards environmental sustainability,” he said.
Learning the ways around tea farming brings a new ray of hope for several small plantation owners who seek to attain social dignity through the trade.

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