Assam is home to about 5,620 elephants. In man-animal conflicts, elephants killed 54 people in 2014-15.
Guwahati: Products of two small tea gardens along the India-Bhutan border in Assam’s Udalguri district have earned the tag of being the world’s first “Elephant-Friendly Certified Tea”, adding a new feather to the cap of the state’s famous plantation industry.
The recognition for the tea gardens came as part of an initiative launched by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) and University of Montana, US, to raise funds for Asian elephant conservation.
The objective of the certification is to support elephant conservation by creating opportunity for tea growers to obtain premium prices for their tea and by making sure that the tea that consumers drink is not harmful to elephants.
Assam is home to about 5,620 elephants. In man-animal conflicts, elephants killed 54 people in 2014-15. In Udalguri district alone, 52 people were killed by jumbos while 14 elephants were killed between 2014 and 2016.
Julie Stein, executive director, WFEN, said: “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 that the tea they drink is not harmful to elephants. Conservation in every cup is our motto.”
The “elephant-friendly certified tea” tag is given after evaluating a plantation on a number of parameters. A team assesses whether a plantation is free of things that harm elephants like the risk of electrocution, injury or death by falling in drains, risk of poisoning from chemicals and blockage of corridors.
Elephants have faced a number of challenges as tea gardens have eaten into much of their habitat in the northern part of Udalguri district where tea is grown on approximately 20 acres using organic methods and planted with trees in the rest of the area.
The two farms which have earned the coveted tag are named after their owner Tenzing Bodosa and fall in an area where wild elephants and tea plantations share space.
Mr Bodosa’s two farms are located at Khairani and Khachibari under Dimakuchi police station and the distance between the two farms is 10-12 km. Both the farms produce 6,000 kg of tea in a year.
“I plant trees like guava, jackfruit and others for a perfect ecosystem. There are no big trenches or fencing in my farms and it provides an easy passage for movement of elephants,” said Mr Bodosa.
“The certification is a recognition for my efforts since 2007 to make my tea plantations elephant-friendly by adoption of organic cultivation,” he said.
Mr Stein said, “Mr Bodosa’s plantations went through a rigorous process of adherence to standards developed by WFEN and University of Montana for getting the certificate under the pilot programme for small tea growers.”
The WFEN and the University of Montana launched the world’s first Elephant Friendly Tea certification at World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in June. The university claims that the new farm-to-cup programme engages tea growers, sellers and consumers to help conserve Asian elephant.
Over the past 75 years, the Asian elephant population has declined more than 50 percent and only 40,000 to 50,000 remain, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.