Mighty Leaf Tea
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Cow Loans

Cow Loans

Mighty Leaf seized a fruitful opportunity by partnering with the Okayti Estate in Darjeeling, India in 2007. The Okayti Estate is a storied tea farm with a history of excellence that goes back to the early 19th Century. In recent times, it has implemented sustainable, organic crop cultivation to foster exceptional teas while protecting the environment and the lives of its workers. There is no tea garden that better complements Mighty Leaf and our commitment to quality and responsibility in all business practices.

Because workers live and labor on the estate, a sense of community engagement influences all aspects of life there. As the newcomer to town, Mighty Leaf recognized we had responsibilities beyond buying tea. It was important that we participate in estate affairs and help ensure continued economic growth and personal prosperity for the skilled farmers who nurture some of our finest teas.

We decided to invest directly in the neediest and most motivated workers on the estate, to give them opportunities for greater income and independence. With the help of a local social group, known as a Samaj, we narrowed down a list of more than 242 applicants to fifteen greatly deserving families. To each of these families we made a loan for the purchase of a cow. Families are free to sell their cows’ fresh milk to others or the state dairy as a secondary source of income. A small portion of this money will go toward paying off the loans over the next few years.

The new cows, aged 2 to 3 years, were bought from surrounding villages--some from nearby Nepal--and led back to the Estate on foot. Families receiving the cows are familiar with how to care for the animals, which are insured by the Okayti Estate and furnished with veterinary care. The expectation is that each cow will produce milk for about 10 years and that, with help of local bulls, new calves can be bred to sustain the project.

But the cows have more than milk to offer. “The Estate is organic,” writes Antriksh Kumbat, the proprietor of Okayti, “and we need cow dung very badly to provide to the tea bushes as organic manure after making compost.” This arrangement will lower our carbon footprint and raise worker living standards at the same time.

These special cows will do their part to keep Mighty Leaf’s Organic Darjeeling Estate naturally vibrant and delicious for decades to come. But more importantly, we hope they can deepen our relationship with the Okayti Estate and become the cornerstone of a larger sustainable development project.