The seemingly impossible is happening at Nuxalbari Tea Estate in the Darjeeling District. A woman is running this major tea operation in India. She has paradigm shifting ideas for the people, animals and tea on her estate. Sonia Jabbar is responsible for the livelihoods of over 1,000 people who grow, pick and process tea on the 1,200 acre estate. Five years ago, she decided to transition to an organic farm and now has 200 acres of organic tea bushes. And she decided her estate would become an Elephant corridor.
Sonia’s management approach at Nuxalbari is collaborative and team centered. She’s not afraid to put women or men who were previously passed up into leadership positions. Through lots of hard work and reflection on where the tea industry in India is headed, her vision is to produce larger quantities of premium loose-leaf teas for specialty markets and limit the amount of CTC tea they produce.
Sonia is committed to the environment and is planting 100 acres of rainforest for Elephants and other native wildlife. She started a children’s environmental education program called Hathi Sathi. Through Hathi Sathi, the children of her staff understand the importance of living in an elephant corridor. Sonia has transformed her tea farm into an elephant sanctuary by educating her staff and their families on how to be calm around elephants. While we were there, she had a meeting with local farmers about Nuxalbari establishing an insurance program that would help them when the elephants eat their crops.
Sonia’s altruism is astounding. This single mother to a little girl understands that all actions have reactions, and she is shooting for the moon in terms of protecting the environment and wild Asian elephants and implementing a sustainable development model providing better jobs and healthier people.
Watch as we bring in a new line of tea from Nuxalbari! We anticipate tea arriving in November.
We thank Lisa Mills with Certified Elephant FriendlyTM, a program under Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, for introducing us to Sonia. This introduction gave us the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of the Indian tea market and the many challenges Asian Elephants face in the 21st century.