The Tetulia Cooperative – Bringing life to the land and people

When the first camellia sinensis was planted in the Tetulia garden in 2000, the goal wasn’t necessarily to produce an amazing premium tea. The goal was to employ the largest number of people in a healthy, progressive and environmentally-friendly enterprise. It just so happens that Tetulia accomplished this, while cultivating a world-class organic tea!

One of the programs that sets Tetulia apart from other Tea Gardens – or most other business for that matter - is their innovate Cooperative (Co-op). The Co-op gives the employees and people living in surrounding villages the opportunity to become educated in organic farming, provide nourishment for their family, and generate income, all without monetary loans.  Dr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, CEO of Tetulia, explains the Tetulia Cooperative:

“From its inception, Tetulia has been eager to engage with the community in a mutually beneficial manner. This is why Tetulia started a Cooperative that is open both to its workers, and to neighbors in surrounding villages. Tetulia’s Cooperative began with an innovative method focused on dairy. Co-op members receive a milking cow, for which they pay back not in cash, but with milk and cow dung.  Members pay only one liter of milk per day, keeping the rest for their children and the calves. The pay 10 to 20 kgs of cow dungs per day, keeping a measure for their own use. This easy “barter” form of payback takes off the pressure of cash payments, making the co-op a practical alternative even to the micro-credit operations for which Bangladesh is now famous. Most members manage to pay off their cow within two to three years.  Best of all, they keep any calves that the cow bears, doubling or trebling their cattle wealth!

After a nascent experimental period, Tetulia has stepped up its Co-op efforts in the last two years, and members now exceed one thousand in number. Tetulia expects this number to cross quadruple within the next two to three years, if not sooner.

Tetulia is now also bringing other areas of work, like growing tea, within the ambit of the Co-op. In places like Satmera, Co-op members have come together to start a one-room school built from bamboo donated by the community. When I go the garden, visiting that school and hearing the children sing, or watch them play on the sea-saw or the swing – also made of bamboo – by the little river where they are located is one of the greatest pleasures.” – Dr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, CEO

The Ultimate Resource

The Ultimate Resource is a Documentary that highlights some of the world’s most impoverished countries and how free market incentives are great, but sometimes still not enough to help some parts of the world. Bangladesh is certainly not excluded from this list.

“This new and exclusive documentary looks at the “before and after” lives of individuals and families, exploring some of the surprising, innovative initiatives and trends at work in unlikely places around the world. ”

As I watched this program (click here for a list of local broadcasting stations) I couldn’t help but think about how all of the social responsibility programs that Tetulia has built itself upon are right in line with the programs featured in this documentary.

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which uses microfinance to bring opportunity to the world’s poorest people by helping them to start their own businesses.”

In the next couple of blogs, I will outline some of the wonderful programs Tetulia utilizes to sustain not only the people, but also the land. By developing extensive Co-op programs, making meaningful donations to youth programs, education in literacy and organic agriculture, Tetulia has been recognized as one of the most progressive businesses in Bangladesh, in terms of helping the people and the economy.

Below is a brief clip of The Ultimate Resource.  Again, you can find your local listings here, or you can visit www.FreeToChooseMedia.org for more information on the program, or purchase it via DVD

“Around the world there are enormous and complicated challenges ahead. But extraordinary change can happen when ordinary people have the tools and the freedom to make their own decisions. “

Tetulia – Using the Masanobu Fukuoka Natural Farming Method

Now that I have gotten somewhat past the initial shock of these majestic surroundings, let me introduce you to a whole new shock – the incredible natural farming methods used in this tea garden. First let me start by saying that natural farming doesn’t always mean organic, and vice versa. In this case, Tetulia is USDA certified organic, but also employs the natural farming methods of Masanobu Fukuoka.

Masanobu Fukuoka is a trained microbiologist from Japan. After a short while specializing in plant pathology, he soon returned to his family farm to explore the methods of organic, natural farming. The Masanobu Farming method does not require tilling or plowing – natural groundcover is utilized, no chemicals or pesticides are used, weeds are considered part of the ecosystem, and natural, organic trees are used for shade. Not only are all of these wonderful plants used, but insects, animals, and weather all play a part.

Tetulia is the first and possibly only tea garden to use the Fukuoka farming methods. We pride ourselves on bringing you a premium, fresh, clean tasting tea, but we also pride ourselves on nurturing the land and natural resources that allow us to bring you such a fine tea.

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka

Arriving to the Tetulia Tea Garden

Finally, after 1.5 days of travel, we arrive at Tetulia. How we got there, I will never be able to tell you! From what I could tell, we passed through many small villages. The children would run out to the road with huge smiles and call to their friends that vehicles were passing. People would look up from their daily chores with curiosity as to why there was a progression of automobiles coming through their quiet village. Much like the look of curiosity I gave them as I tried to figure out what it was that they were doing. Some were walking cattle down the road, some were herding goats (and many many baby goats), some were washing fabrics, and some were just sweeping the entryway to their hut.Arch-way at Tetulia Guest estate

We turned into the guarded gates of the guest portion of Tetulia, met by several employees and managers. You didn’t even have to get out of the car before your breath was stolen by the beauty of the surroundings. The visual is the first thing that affects you, soon to be followed by the sweet smell of life. Organic life. I was then shown to my room which was called “Wild Life”. (I somehow think I was probably the most wild of the life to come to this peaceful place.) The guest houses and the guest house portion of the garden were something out of a fairy tale. I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly ornate it was and unfortunately I don’t think my amature pictures do it justice. Everything is a color of green that I didn’t know existed. Everywhere there is life. Whether it be a pond of fish, a stable of cows, a patch of carrots, a hibiscus bush, or simply crickets and birds, there is just so much life. And at night, the sounds of frogs and tik tiki lizards take over for the birds.

In the first 5 minutes of being at Tetulia I knew I was about to experience more than tea, more than organic farming, and more than a new culture. I was about to experience a completely new way of living.

Kantanagar Temple – a stop on the way to Tetulia

Kantanagar Temple

This is an eighteenth century temple located in the Tetulia region.   It is most famous for it’s ornate terracotta bricks that cover the entire exterior of the temple.   From Banglapedia: Every available inch of its wall surface from the base to the crest of its three stories, both inside and out, pulsates with an amazing profusion of figured and floral art in unbroken succession. The vast array of subject matter include the stories of the mahabharata (Mahabharata) and the ramayana (Ramayana), the exploits of Krsna, and a series of extremely fascinating contemporary social scenes depicting the favourite pastimes of the landed aristocracy.

More info on Kantanagar Temple   More Photos of Kantanagar Temple