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Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water and provides millions of people (mostly women) with a livelihood in the eco-sensitive zones where tea is produced. However, the industry faces severe challenges such as habitat destruction and soil erosion, improper use of chemicals and low farmer income.  Solidaridad has been a driving force from the year 2007 to improve the sustainability performance of the tea industry from producer to consumer in collaboration with all key stakeholders. Solidaridad is presently working with around 700,000 workers and smallholders in more than 10 tea-producing countries to improve their social and environmental practices. We partner with those who want to make a difference by changing business practices; from being part of the problem to becoming part of the solution.

Strengthening farmer organisations, good agricultural practices and certification can provide the solution. Training producers in sustainable farming techniques can benefit farming families as well as the environment.

Tea programme: a unique approach

Solidaridad is a partner in several local and international initiatives for a sustainable tea supply chain. As the situations in the various tea-producing countries differ, a bottom-up approach is being taken to further develop the programme activities and tools. We help companies source their tea sustainably and provide them with the opportunity to conduct their business in a sustainable manner. Solidaridad also trains farmers and their organizations in sustainable production and assists with obtaining certification. A unique feature of our programme is the efforts being made to raise awareness in the Asian markets, the world’s largest consumer markets for tea. Creating sustainable Asian markets would be an enormous step forward in realizing a sustainable tea sector. Meanwhile, interest in sustainable tea production in Europe is growing and supports the uptake of sustainable tea in other countries. 

Impact: better labour conditions and a better environment

In 2008 and 2009 Solidaridad facilitated the development of the Utz Certified tea standard with the involvement of stakeholders in key producing countries. Utz certification guarantees improved labour conditions and environmentally friendly production and is being adopted by estates and smallholders in various tea producing countries. Tea smallholders have been helped to form organized groups, learn about responsible growing methods and gain better access to market players and finance. This has enabled smallholders in India and Indonesia to increase their incomes by almost 15 percent. The development of national sustainability standards for tea has brought thousands of smallholders and workers supplying domestic markets in Asia within the ambit of sustainability. Besides the environmental and social benefits, sustainable production is now increasingly seen as a way to improve competitiveness.

History of the tea programme and outlook

Start of the tea programme2008Main issuessmallholder productivity and income, discrimination of workers and their wages, sustainable market development in biggest Asian marketsCountriesArgentina, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Sri Lanka, VietnamPartnersAgricane Malawi, Business Watch Indonesia, China Tea Marketing Association,Ethical Tea Partnership, IDH, Institue of Social Development Kandy Sri Lanka, Hindustan Unilever, KNVKT, Ministry of Rural Development and Cafe Control Vietnam, Oxfam Novib, Prakruthi India, PTPN Vill, Rainforest Alliance, Sara Lee, Sari Wangi Group, SOMO, Tea Research Association India, Tea Smallholder Development Authority Sri Lanka, Unilever, Utz Certified, Yuran University ChinaDonorsDutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Douwe Egberts Foundation, FICA/VAIS



Over the next five years the tea programme will focus on:

  • developing quality assurance models and new markets for sustainable tea in Asia;
  • helping tea companies to implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) and source sustainably produced tea;
  • upscaling sustainable practices and producer support in order to reach unorganized smallholders and workers;
  • developing a complete set of training materials.

New partnerships

To continue the tea programme we are looking for partners that want to:

  • invest in models that include smallholders in sustainable supply chains;
  • stimulate the consumption of sustainable tea in Asian markets;
  • address the critical issues of discrimation and fair wages;
  • support upscaling of the Solidaridad tea producer support programme;
  • invest in farmer loans for agricultural inputs.


Tea estates see new opportunities with UTZ

Solidaridad assist tea farmers in Malawi to get an UTZ certification. It helps them to increase productivity, efficiency and tea quality.

We offer

Solidaridad aims at a sustainable and fair tea sector, from producer to consumer. The organization consists of a worldwide network of regional expertise centres and cooperates with local partners. Together we deliver the following services:

Our services in the Tea programme

  1. Training farmers in farming techniques that have less negative impact on people and the environment and lead to better quality and higher yields.
  2. Supporting agricultural producer organizations and industrial producer companies to qualify for social and environmental certification standards.
  3. Supporting civil society organizations that empower women, farmers or employees, as well as organizations that protect nature and bio diversity.
  4. Supporting companies to implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) related to sourcing in developing countries.
  5. Seeking dialogue with stakeholders and the public using our knowledge, experience and views on sustainable economic development and corporate social responsibility.


Some of the key results in Solidaridad's Tea programme:

  1. In 2009, the first tea estates and farmer cooperatives became UTZ CERTIFIED, guaranteeing more human and environmental friendly production.
  2. Up to 2010, a total number of 6,000 estate workers and 35,300 smallholders are trained to improve their social and economical position and apply more environment friendly farming techniques.
  3. With the supported smallholders in Indonesia we have seen an average income improvement of 10%, a 51% yield improvement and considerable yield improvement.
  4. In several countries in Asia and Africa, Solidaridad established National Reference Groups, platforms for all stakeholders in the national tea business, to assist in national initiatives for a sustainable tea chain. The NRGs in Indonesia (Forum Sertifikasi) and China (National Working Group) have delivered national guidelines for sustainable tea production which are in line with the international voluntary standards.
  5. On the market side, 4 international buyers have committed to UTZ Certified tea, 3 local Indonesian players will market sustainable tea to local consumers, and for India Solidaridad works with the biggest market player on sustainable tea.