he world is at a crossroads today. We are caught between the devil and the deep sea. We are confronted by the twin threats of global warming and global financial meltdown.
The recent global financial meltdown, has brutally exposed the shortcomings of pursuing a course of mindless industrialisation and consumerism. The path of following a course of unabated material desire has virtually brought the global financial scenario to its knees. We need to assess how, where and why we erred. We need to address and redress this horrendous situation squarely and implement sustainable solutions that will ensure a future that is healthy and vibrant for our children in this planet. A planet that oozes positive synergy, to sustain mankind for millennia.
We must realise, clearly define, and firmly grout, the twin pillars that will support the bridge of sustainability. What are these pillars. One is technology that drives industrialisation. We cannot live without technology today, it is an essential part of our lifestyle. We cannot do without mobile phones, computers, T.V, mechanical appliances, automobiles and a host of gadgets that ensure comfort to our daily lives. Technology is there to stay, so this is one pillar which is firmly entrenched. However, though technology is an essential part of our lives, it should be USED. We MUST NOT ever be enslaved by it.
Ten years ago we had no mobile phones, yet we went about our daily business . Today it is an essential part of our lives. We must ensure that we are not dependent on it or else it will be an electronic shackle, that would enslave one. One has to be discerning in its use for ensuring one's harmonious state. We must learn to be disciplined on how to use it effaciously without imbalancing ourselves. This is applicable for all hi-tech machines that we have surrounded ourselves with. THE KEY therefore is to be discerning on our use of our technological inventions. Proper use as opposed to mindless use, ensures that theres no waste. When theres no waste, it immediately enhances our self-respect. Self-respect in turn enables one to respect all life forms.This on further reflection leads one to quest for liberation, to be free. To be liberated is the ultimate desire for all humans. Unless one is independent- unless one is sustainable ONE CAN NEVER BE FREE, Hence its one of the greatest tool to unleash to be holistically sustainable. The global financial meltdown, was the resultant of mindless, unfettered investment banking, which flouted the fundamental banking caps. The checks or caps ignored by chief executives for their unbridled desire for huge commissions on utopian bubbles, ultimately caused the bubble to burst. There was just no discipline to respect the fundamental norms, which ha sresulted in pain, agony and misery for million overnight. The main door that millions were lulled into walking through for the past two decades, slammed shut overnight. One could no more move freely through the door that one was used to. This has resulted in depression, a huge sense of hopelessness has manifested itself in every walk of life, which was directly or even indirectly linked to this banking sector. Theres also a huge opportunity now. The opportunity to show people that the pall of gloom can be lifted. When a door shuts, a lot of windows open. The alternative windows are primed and ready to overcome the twin challenge of global warming and the financial meltdown.
I will then enumerate the sustainable solutions practiced at Makaibari as an answer to this threat, as follows.
The demand for organic, fair traded goods are increasing phenomenally in all North countries, who have been hardest hit by the twin threats. This is the resultant of finally accepting the truth that organically, and ethically grown foods addresses and redresses the challenges that confront us today, holistically. These synergies comprehensively answer the economics, politics and environmental needs, that create healthy soil. Healthy soil ofcourse translates to healthy mankind.
What is Fairtrade? How Does it work? Let me apprise you the origin of Fairtrade.20 years ago, a Dutchman whilst holidaying in Mexico, was appalled by the conditions of Mexican coffee growers. These small growers eked out a living, under horrendous conditions. Unlike most of us who go on holiday, and perhaps are momentarily influenced by a moving event that tugs at our heart strings, but forget it once w e return to our daily grind of security, the Dutchman embarked on a mission. He cleaned out his own bank account, his wife's and a few of his friends, bought a couple of container sof the coffee directly from the small growers at a fair price, packed them simply with the legend Max Havelaar(a colonial activist who desired fairplay in erstwhile colonies), and placed them in Netherland supermarket shelves. Sales boomed and the rest is history.Fairtrade under Max-Havelaar grew and grew , and within the next three decades, all the Fairtrade initiatives in various countries where brought under one umbrella Fairtrade Labelling Organisation(FLO). Thus Max- Havellar in europe//Fairtrade (U.K), Transfair(U.S/Germany/Japan), were united under the ying and yang logo under FAIRTRADE. Cocoa, followed coffee uner Fairtrade with great success. These were all disorganised small growers, hence it was relatively simple to appeal to the caring consumer on the plight of the impoverished peasant growers for support. However, when it came to tea, which was a British consumer item, fostered by organised farmlands, under large tea estates, the story became rather complex. There were simply no small growers in global tea who fit the ethical criteria. Finally in 1994, 15 years ago Makaibari was discovered. and was the first tea garden to be licensed under Fairtrade. Why was Makaibari chosen? Out of all the existing tea gardens, Makaibari was the only organised farmlands, that managed her lands and community alternatively. All the large tea estates, even today by and large are run along colonial hierarchial management styles. What was even that was the original code of conduct.
How does it work? The importter in the consuming country, pays a premium over and above the contarct price, which is a dollar and 10 cents for leaf and 50 cents for Fannings Darjeeling tea.The premiums, are sent to a NGO, approved by FLO/Bonn as well as the Reserve Bank of India(the conditions for foreign currency remittances are stringent, and any digression invites severe penalties). The NGO remits the funds directly to the Makaibari Joint Body (MBJB)account. The MBJB consists of 17 members, 10 of whom are ladies and 7 men. 14 are elected members whilst 2 are Management appointed representatives. I am the only permanent member(decreed by consensus) to cast my vote in the event of a time. Needless to add, in its 15 year sof operations I have not once been called in to resolve a deadlock over any contentious project. This confirms the fact, that all sanctioned projects are thoroughly and democratically discussed prior to a sanction.The projects cover a wide spectrum, livestock acquisiton and rearing, bio-gas digester construction, private medical care, educational stipends, creating a state of the art library foor children,innovative afforestation schemes, ladies self help group(SHG) for making paper from a grass, the paper for making Makaibari cartons by another ladies SHG for Making the Makaibari Exoticas, vocational training and constructing homestays for visitors.are a few of the succesful schemes implemented by the MBJB.
The bio-gas deserves special mention, a sits one of the greatest assets in any rural commuunity. The smell in anydung is the smell of the gas methane. Slurrying the dung, releases the gas, which is trapped in the hod. A rubber pipe from the hod, connects to the cooking stove, and magically one has a source of non-polluting renewable energy on tap.The forests are not threatened.The slurry runs off to the compost pit to be converted to the finest healer of the earth-biodynamic manure. Ladies, anywhere in the world bend their backs the hardest, nut are always relegated to second class citizenship. Makaibari was no different. The ladies normally set off at 4 am in the morning,to collect ahead loa dof fuel for the day's cooking. preparing the morning and midday meal, sending their children to school, menfolk to work and themselves as well for 8 hours in the tea fields. On return in the evening, further housekeeping, attending to the children's homework, preventing the men from solving the global problems over a strong glass of homemade liquor, being used a s a sexual punch bag and finally to tired slumber, is not exactly a luxury. The bio-gas saves them, 4 hours of intense drudgery(collecting wood from long distances ). The use of compost for growing organic fruit, cereal and vegetables, not only saves money spent on chemically grown vegetables from the marketpace, its daily consumption improves health. The sale of excess manure to the tea estate, and milk to the town, generates income. Finally the care and maintenance of the cow and bio-gas unit creates a self-respecting grass-root entrepreneur.When ladies get this opportunity they grab it with both ends and sucsses is ensured. Thus the humble bio-gas empowers ladies, and unless ladies are empowered no community cannot hope to march forward positively.Once this happens, it snowballs into a movement that uplifts not only communities but a nation as well. Hence the Fairtrade premiums have played a huge role in sustaining the tea with composted manure and empowered the ladies by turning them into grassroots entrepreneurs(One of the moving stories in my book "The Rajah of Darjeeling Organic Tea Makaibari" is about Jamuni- who has inspired her community in the story- The cow that saved a community, I could read it out to the audience).
The cow too has featured in a great revelation that catalysed Makaibari's management as a model for not only futuristic global rural living lifestyle but also as a forerunner for global managers. 18 years ago, I was chatting with my head dairyman, Tej Bahadur who runs my private diary of 6 cows. When I asked him the yield of the cows, he responded by scratching his head furiously. When I forced him to reply, quietly he answered with averted eyes, that it was 4 litres. Having no idea, whether it was good or bad, I asked him, the yield of his own cows.Once Again he resorted to furious head scratching. After a lot of coaxing I managed to learn that his cows gave him 10 litres. Were my cows better housed? Were my cows better fed? Were my cows better cared? Were my cows better exercised? Were my cows received the best medical attention? To all he replied that my cows were infinitely better looked after. Then why should they yield less than half his yield? He had no answer and that was the reason why , he had been dreading me asking this very question for the last 5 years. I was very angry and went home muttering, as I felt Tej Bahdur was stealing the milk, and was offering excuses to cove rhis back. At home, when my wife Srirupa, asked me the reason for my anger, I told her angrily that Tej Bahadur was a thief. To which she replied, that she found it incoceivable that anyone who I had known all my life would steal me blind, and perhaps the fault lay with me, and I should ascertain the cause of failure. Next morning. I tried to milk the cow, and suffered enormously. I was licked, tail-whipped, gored. I made a complete mess. The second cow, I supervised whilst Tej Bahadur milked. Lo and behold it was 4 litres. Obviously he was not stealing, and in the following weeks I became more depressed as I couldn't find the cause of the poor yields. A month later I had the bright idea of randomly collecting data from villagers, as we have over 1000 cows in the seven Makaibari villages. The result was even more depressing, the highest was 14 litres and the lowest 8 litres. Finally two months after my initial discussion, I decided to approach the problem from a different perspective. I decided to discover what our villagers were doing that I was not. In due course I realised, though my care of the cows was superior in every way, I was lacking in one aspect. ALL WERE LOOKING AFTER THEIR COWS THEMSELVES, whereas I was EMPLOYING OTHERS TO LOOK AFTER MY DAIRY. This was a revelation. I then made a study and found that I was the only owner of a tea estate who managed a tea garden, all other estates were managed by professional Managers. I also discovered that the production of Darjeeling teas had declined considerably in the past two decades, whereas Makaibari's had been holding its own even after going organic. IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT IF IT WAS ONE'S COW ONE DID NOT NEED ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO LOOK AFTER IT. It was then that we laid stress on capacity building, for the Makibari community with particular attention to ladies empowerment, as future partners.
Till a decade ago, all management anywhere in the world had control over dissemination of information. That was power, and most companies tweaked information to suit the flavour of their balance sheet. Thanks to the virtual archive the internet, dissemination of information is no more an exclusive tool of management. Anyone can download, any information from the virtual archive- the internet from any corner of the world today. Whats the role of management for the future? Management has to be motivationally inspirational. How can one actually motivate youngsters-who do not desire to have their hands and feet mucky in a farm. They would rather be a rock star. As opined earlier, all management's principal role would be motivate youngsters to be self-respecting human beings, as assets tot heir respective communites. This translates to having them as partners. The new Mantra would be partnership not Ownership. As a first step towards this- Makaibari has initiated a movement in the Darjeeling region- Organic Ekta or Organic Union- whereby over 100 small farmers have become self-respecting grass-roots entrepreneurs, and heres the visual proof of it. Humro Makaibari. This is the future, The future of an equitable world where sustainable partnerships with the soil, with people and the environment, creates a win-win for all concerned holistically.