The Teatulia Cooperative – Bringing life to the land and people
When the first camellia sinensis was planted in the Tetulia garden in 2000, the goal wasn’t necessarily to produce an amazing premium tea. The goal was to employ the largest number of people in a healthy, progressive and environmentally-friendly enterprise. It just so happens that Tetulia accomplished this, while cultivating a world-class organic tea!
One of the programs that sets Tetulia apart from other Tea Gardens – or most other business for that matter - is their innovate Cooperative (Co-op). The Co-op gives the employees and people living in surrounding villages the opportunity to become educated in organic farming, provide nourishment for their family, and generate income, all without monetary loans. Dr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, CEO of Tetulia, explains the Tetulia Cooperative:
“From its inception, Tetulia has been eager to engage with the community in a mutually beneficial manner. This is why Tetulia started a Cooperative that is open both to its workers, and to neighbors in surrounding villages. Tetulia’s Cooperative began with an innovative method focused on dairy. Co-op members receive a milking cow, for which they pay back not in cash, but with milk and cow dung. Members pay only one liter of milk per day, keeping the rest for their children and the calves. The pay 10 to 20 kgs of cow dungs per day, keeping a measure for their own use. This easy “barter” form of payback takes off the pressure of cash payments, making the co-op a practical alternative even to the micro-credit operations for which Bangladesh is now famous. Most members manage to pay off their cow within two to three years. Best of all, they keep any calves that the cow bears, doubling or trebling their cattle wealth!
After a nascent experimental period, Tetulia has stepped up its Co-op efforts in the last two years, and members now exceed one thousand in number. Tetulia expects this number to cross quadruple within the next two to three years, if not sooner.
Tetulia is now also bringing other areas of work, like growing tea, within the ambit of the Co-op. In places like Satmera, Co-op members have come together to start a one-room school built from bamboo donated by the community. When I go the garden, visiting that school and hearing the children sing, or watch them play on the sea-saw or the swing – also made of bamboo – by the little river where they are located is one of the greatest pleasures.” – Dr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, CEO