Against this backdrop, international social impact investor and co-operative Oikocredit has invested in social enterprise partner the Ambootia Tea Group, a family business and co-operative that acquires struggling tea estates in India. Ambootia apply organic and biodynamic farming techniques and provide their employees with secure livelihoods, fair wages and help with housing, food, clothing, education and medical treatment.
Over the past 12 years, Ambootia (also known as Darjeeling Organic Tea Estates Private Ltd) has acquired 12 of the 87 Darjeeling plantations and has become internationally renowned for its high-quality teas. It focuses on producing great tasting teas and improving the lives of its employees – ensuring that fair wages are a priority in a country where more than an estimated 18 million people are paid unfairly.
Beyond ensuring the financial stability of their employees, Ambootia provides staff with housing, food, fuel, footwear, protective clothing, winter blankets and basic, free medical treatment.
Free milk is distributed through the infant nutrition programme, and social security includes provident and pension funds and support for dependants.
Ambootia also focuses on educating the next generation by providing free primary education so that children can go to school instead of working alongside their parents as child labourers.
Most of the tea picking on the Ambootia estates is undertaken by women and the company places a strong emphasis on enhancing female economic empowerment.
One of these women, Priti Thapa, an Ambootia employee, cares for a household of six people with her husband, a driver. She picks tea for eight hours each day – minus lunch and tea breaks - while her daughter attends the school on the estate. Priti also takes advantage of an income augmentation programme, which provides her with the tools and resources to make additional income from growing vegetables and breeding cows, pigs and chickens.