DOTFA - Dazhangshan Organic Tea Farmer Association
The Da Zhang Shan Organic Tea Farmer Association was also the first producer organization in China to gain Fair Trade certification in 2001. The group has over 5,400 member households; additionally, the number of female members has increased dramatically since the cooperative’s inception. Today, women make up almost 35 percent of the organization. The association extends membership not only to farmers, but also to technicians and tea processors who handle the teas and prepare them for sale to buyers.
Da Zhang Shan farmers and workers live in eight townships around the Da Zhang Shan Mountains. The tea gardens are located on the hills surrounding the villages. This scenic mountain range is still rich in natural resources and unpolluted by the industrialization that characterizes much of the metropolitan areas. The region attracts thousands of tourists throughout the year.
The Da Zhang Shan region is well known for the high-quality teas it produces (mainly gunpowder and Chun Mee varieties, as well as specialty teas like Ming Mei, Yun Cui and Jian Feng. The organization has steadily increased its exports of organic teas since its entry into the Fair Trade system.
The cooperative group is governed by a board of democratically elected representatives who make business and community development decisions for the farmers and workers. Since the farmers of the region generally own their own land and have no problem growing food, the cooperative focuses mostly on improving working conditions and funding children’s education. The Da Zhang Shan board says that Fair Trade has helped to promote positive change in the communities, especially in terms of education. Many great projects have become visible incentives for other tea producers to become members of the association. Members of the association make 15 percent to 20 percent more income from tea than do other families in the area. Fair Trade has allowed them to improve their practices and sell their tea at a higher price.
The tea farmers put all their energy into growing and producing tea because they know that the Fair Trade premium will be used to improve their living conditions and to benefit their children's education. They enthusiastically support Fair Trade. ”
Zhou Yan, Association Member
We invited Mr. Fang, who is from BCS, and some experts from CIQ and the local government to teach a lesson on organic agricultural management and how to maintain the natural environment. ”
Last year, we invested funds to build a dormitory in Tuocuan Middle School that greatly improved the living conditions for the students. The premium also supports student enrollment in high schools and universities, and helps disadvantaged girls in our community gain access to an education. ”
Fostering eduction, building schools, dormitories
Dazhangshan farmer members have devised a number of projects aimed at improving education in the area. Workers voted to give money to each of the tea farmers’ children to support their enrollment in high school and universities. The Tea Garden has also invested in building a new school, a library, computer classroom and student dormitory.
Supporting Organic Agriculture
The association will implement technical assistance and training programs for members to develop producers' knowledge of organic agriculture. These trainings will help the association preserve the local eco-system and protect workers’ health. Trainings on organic agriculture and management are held at least twice a year.
Microcredit program for small businesses
The association has a budget for a microcredit program. This program provides family members of cooperative members with small loans to start their own business. Currently, there are 35 participants in this program.