Jinita Das Digal, President of Pengera Village Pachayat and member of the Community Development Forum of Borbam Tea Estate, Assam, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP
Tea garden at dusk, Moran Tea Estate, Assam, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP

Plantation Community Empowerment Programme

Resolving systemic issues and improving living and working conditions across Assam’s tea sector.

A unique, sustainable, grassroots project successfully piloted and now in expansion.

In Assam, India, people who live or work in tea plantations make up nearly 20% of the population and face a range of social issues.

The Plantation Community Empowerment Programme (PCEP) is an initiative across 23 tea estates over nine districts of Assam, India. It aims to improve the socioeconomic and political wellbeing of tea workers and their families, the productivity of estates, and the relationship between management and workforces. It uses dedicated grassroots forums that bring community members and plantation managers together to jointly resolve local issues.

  • 2017-2026
  • Status: On-track

Project overview

Using Community Development Forums (a model developed by CARE International) to help tea plantation communities and management tackle problems together.

Project partners

ETP core funding, Taylors of Harrogate, Jing Tea, Ostfriesische Tee Gesellschaft GmbH & Co. KG, Lavazza Professional, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Manjula Kahar, ETP's PCEP Community Mobiliser and a Community Develop Forum member for Moran Tea Estate, Assam, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP

PCEP wants to create a thriving tea sector in Assam by improving the wellbeing and participation of the wider community.

Its end goal is for communities and plantation management to jointly resolve issues around living and working conditions in tea estates.

Using Community Development Forums breaks down traditional employer-employee relation institutionalising, creating a multistakeholder platform where Tea Estate and workers issues can be raised and resolved.

They can also help communities tackle local social issues including alcohol abuse, youth unemployment, access to government schemes, and children reaching their potential.

Members of the women’s self-help group of Bukhial Tea Estate, Assam, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP

PCEP uses a ‘participatory approach’. We work with communities to form Community Development Forums and build their skills. They then identify challenges within their estates and devise their own plans to tackle them.

Forum members include plantation workers and estate management, but also non-plantation workers, young people, women’s rights groups, unions, and development agencies.

Solutions often focus on skills and education, sports, gender rights, leadership, constructive ownership, and a rights-based approach to networking with government.

Suneel Singh Sikand, CEO of Rossell Tea (a division of Rossell India Ltd). Producer companies like Rossell Tea directly engage with Community Development Forums as part of PCEP. Kolkata, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP

ETP has piloted Community Development Forums in four plantations in Assam, where they have changed people’s lives for the better.

The forums have advanced social protection within gardens, women’s leadership has tackled alcoholism and violence against women, and young people have developed their skills through sports and career counselling.

The scale-up phase is currently ongoing in 20 tea estates from 2022 to 2025.

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Key achievements
Portrait of Lokhimoni, a tea plucker and Community Development Forum member in Bukhial Tea Estate, Assam, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP
4

Successful pilots in tea estates

170

vocational trainees

630

young people receiving career guidance

1,087

students attending after-school learning centres

Dipankar, a member of the youth group and Community Development Forum at Behora Tea Estate, Assam, India. Image: Copac Media/ETP
2,705

households supported to access government social security schemes

20

tea estates taking part in the programme’s scaleup