The Season of Tea
In 1986, ACCORD supported in the planting the first adivasi tea in Thirkapetta, Ayankolly with volunteer French students on land that had been partly repossessed by the tribals. Not a single local person thought Paniyas were capable of planting tea. They scoffed at the very idea. The adivasis were equally doubtful. We chose tea, because it was part of the mainstream economy, well supported by the government and could also, in time, act as proof of possession of land.
We had one more key reason for selecting tea despite our environmental concerns. Tea was a status symbol. Our aim was to elevate the Adivasis from mere local labour, to become tea planters. It certainly changed their position in society. It was the ideal crop for people who were handling money for the first time. If they needed money, they could pick a bit of tea and sell it, earning enough for that night’s meal. Also, it made them credit-worthy for the first time in their lives. This was a regular feature of our work till the year 1998.