Further afield, we’ve brought fresh water to approximately 2,000 people in Rwanda. We achieved this by teaming up with estate owners, and building gravity-fed pipelines to four different villages. These pipelines don’t require expensive pumps, which means they’re cheap to run and easy to maintain. They also bring water right into the heart of the community — removing the need to trek several kilometers for a bucket of water.
We’ve taken a different approach in Assam though. Here, estate owners are responsible for providing access to basic amenities, and the law dictates that every farmer should have access to clean water. Unfortunately, access to clean water varies by estate, and many smallholders lack access to basic sanitation too.
We tackled this problem by teaming up with estate owners, and creating four community development forums (CDFs). These forums work like miniature parliaments. They are made up of 40 – 50 democratically elected members — representing a complete cross-section of the estate community — and they meet to discuss issues that affect everyone from managers, right through to the non-working family members that live on the estate.
These CDFs have been instrumental in tackling water access issues. They’ve helped to give workers a voice, and they’ve already set to work building toilets and other sanitary facilities. On one estate, the local CDF has even implemented a sanitary pad scheme, which aims to provide affordable women’s health products to everyone involved in the enterprise.
Over time, we hope that CDFs will help to improve basic amenities for workers across the region. In the meantime, we’ll support them wherever we can. Back in 2016, we helped Indian farmers buy home filtration systems to purify their water, and we’ll always be looking for more opportunities to lend a hand. So far our water projects have improved 13,000 lives, and they’ve also helped us to build closer relationships with the people who grow our tea and coffee.
And we couldn’t invest in any of them without the help of our customers.