The very name “Darjeeling” conjures images of a picture-perfect hill station, quietly nestled at the foot of the Himalayas. Darjeeling is a tourist hotspot in the State of West Bengal. It is also known as the ‘Queen of the Hills’. The city provides a splendid view of Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain on the planet. The district itself is the gateway to the State of Sikkim and India’s neighbouring countries Bhutan and Nepal.
Agriculture, tea manufacturing and tourism are the major industries of the district. In fact, Darjeeling tea is known as the “champagne of teas” because of its intoxicating taste. The region has rich forest coverage, with citronella grass, sal, leaves, honey, medicinal plants being major resources for the livelihood of the inhabitants. However, pharmaceutical and ayurvedic medicinal industries do not have enough infrastructural support.
CSR in Darjeeling
Tea growers and private companies are actively implementing CSR in Darjeeling. Read on to know which are the top corporate social responsibility initiatives in the region.
PwCIF and Project Nanhi Kali
PwC India Foundation is supporting Project Nanhi Kali to empower 500 underprivileged girl children in Darjeeling by ensuring access to quality education and promoting concept-based learning.
The PwC India Foundation (PwCIF) was established in 2008 with the objective of making an impact in the areas of education and environment sustainability. Project Nanhi Kali is jointly managed by K.C. Mahindra Education Trust and Naandi Foundation.
Through this CSR initiative, PwC is reaching out to girl students from Standard 1 to Standard 5, most of whom are first generation learners in their families. The project aims to curtail the high dropout rate prevalent amongst school girls in India, while ensuring an enabling ecosystem for the girls to attend school with dignity and attain quality education.
PepsiCo India – Plastic waste management education
PepsiCo India in partnership with waste management firm, NEPRA, has been running a waste management education initiative with schools in Kurseong, Darjeeling. Launched in 2019, the CSR programme involves creating awareness around dry waste management amongst students, faculty and school members. Over 600 students from 10 schools have donated post-consumer multi layered plastic (MLP) at dedicated collections points in their schools. The most proactive students are rewarded with a zero waste to landfill badge and certificates in school assemblies.
The programme is part of PepsiCo India’s ongoing CSR initiative to effectively collect more than 800,000 kg of multi layered plastic across key districts – Kolkata, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri in West Bengal. NEPRA has designed an education toolkit to create awareness in schools and sensitise student councils about the different types of plastic and how they can be recycled and recovered. Following a peer-learning methodology, these student councils will further educate their classmates.
MLP is deposited by students every week at dedicated collection centres in each school. PepsiCo India and NEPRA are in contact with participating schools to help them recognise proactive students. Schools that collect most waste are rewarded in the form of points that can be redeemed against supporting a social cause, sponsoring a child of a waste picker or in exchange of recycled stationery.
The initiative for CSR in Darjeeling will help form an intra-city community of students from different schools, working towards efficient waste management and an effective socio-economic-environmental impact. PepsiCo India and NEPRA plan to expand the waste management education initiative to all the schools in the Darjeeling district. The MLP collected is channelled to cement plants for recovery.
Vahdam – TEAch Me
The education of tea workers’ children continues to remain the top priority for CSR of premium tea brand Vahdam. TEAch Me is their flagship CSR initiative, where a minimum of 1% of the revenue is directed towards children’s education. For the whole of last year and even now, when most of the schools remain closed and regular education had come to a standstill, Vahdam partnered with nonprofit organizations Broadleaf (USA), CRY and Child In Need Institute to ensure that essentials like health and education of children could continue in the remote tea estates.
With schools remaining shut for the whole of 2020, education across the nation had to quickly adapt to an online mode, via video conferences and calls. However, digital education is a significant privilege in a nation like ours and is especially a challenge in remote tea estates. As a result, the children of the farmers working in these remote gardens faced complete disruption in continuing their regular education. So, in August 2020, Vahdam partnered with education technology company BYJU’s to bring top-quality digital learning to the children in these remote estates.
By October, the CSR team was implementing a pilot project at 10 tea estates in Darjeeling with CRY and CINI covering over 1100 children. The three-month project ended in December 2020. The total social impact created at these 10 estates was around Rs. 2 crore on an annualized basis. The TEAch Me BYJU partnership, to bring topquality digital education, was scaled up after the pilot programme. By the end of FY-2021, the BYJU digital education programme was rolled out to over 8,000 children across 65 estates and 10 schools in Darjeeling, Assam, and the Nilgiris. In the spirit of solidarity, all major tea producing groups like Williamson Magor, McLeod Russel, Rossell India, Goodricke Group, Amalgamated Plantations, Jokai India, Jayshree Tea, 7 Harrisons Malayalam, Bombay Burmah Trading Company, Parry’s Agro, Darjeeling Organic Tea Estates, as well as several small producers have extended their whole-hearted participation and support to the CSR initiative.
NABARD and Caritas India Wadi CSR Project
In October 2017, Caritas India in collaboration with NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) initiated WADI in 15 villages of Darjeeling district. ‘WADI’ is an integrated tribal development initiative of NABARD which supports various welfare projects for Scheduled Tribes under its Tribal Development Fund.
The key objective of this project is to improve the quality of life of 500 tribal households by enhancing their income and employment potential through land-based alternate livelihood options i.e. high value horticulture development. Another objective is supporting social development of participating families including women’s empowerment process and to create a suitable replicable model for farming.
Tribal farmers in the region were cultivating large cardamom and ginger in a large scale in the area, but they were facing economic challenges due to the high incidence of pest, diseases and climate uncertainties. After the Wadi project, farmers started cultivating Kiwi as a potential replacement which helps them in improving their economic condition. The plantation material has been procured from Diran Kiwi Farm, Arunachal Pradesh as recommended by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Kalimpong. Farmers were also suggested to cultivate other two horticultural crops, improved ‘Allahabad safeda variety of Guava’ in the lower region for 200 families and ‘Mandarin orange of Khasi’ variety for other 200 families.
Some of the farmers have been trained in bee cultivation and linkage formed with KVIB for support in setting up beekeeping units. All the participating families of the project have done levelling and terracing of the land as a measure for soil conservation and land preparation for the plantation. The WADI CSR project has created a strong multi-stakeholder platform at the block and district levels to ensure a regular flow of information.
CSR in Darjeeling is geared towards education and sustainable farming. However, there needs to be more impetus on the preservation of the ancient heritage and culture of this unique town.