CHAI Project

Starbucks is proud to continue our work with the Community, Health and Advancement Initiative (CHAI)—a collaboration between the Starbucks Foundation, Tazo® Tea, Mercy Corps, Indian tea companies and origin communities in India and Guatemala.

In India, Starbucks has contributed to tea growing communities for many years. Since 2003, Starbucks has collaborated with Mercy Corps on the CHAI Project in Darjeeling and Assam to help improve the quality of life for 190 tea and botanical communities in a sustainable way. To date, Starbucks and our tea suppliers have contributed US$2.6 million to these efforts, and have directly impacted more than 12,000 villagers with health services and economic development assistance.

Today, CHAI is helping people in origin communities to:

  • Improve access to water and sanitation
  • Help young people succeed in school and become leaders in their communities
  • Learn the skills to get a job or start a business 

Community Needs

More than 60% of Indian tea comes from Northeast India and Darjeeling where approximately 3 million people work on tea estates. Most are daily wage laborers. Each household is generally allotted permanent worker status for one – sometimes two – family members. Mandatory benefits include living quarters, rations of wheat, rice, and firewood, a toilet, and drinking water facilities. However, the industry has not been able to meet these requirements for all residents on tea estates, and the weak economy beyond the estates severely limits employment options.

CHAI is the only organization working with tea estates in Northern Indian, which are normally autonomous entities with little or no government or NGO presence. Starbucks and Tazo’s strong relationships with local tea growers have helped the project gain access to tea estates, demonstrating a long-term commitment to the communities we are working with, building the estate managers’ trust, and proving results to all of our stakeholders. In Assam, oiver 30% of Assam’s population of 30 million lives under the poverty level. The high drop-out rates in local schools and a low skills base have pushed more and more youth to join insurgent groups due to lack of positive alternatives.

Results to Date

Overall: More than 75,000 people and their families have been directly impacted by CHAI.

Water, Sanitation and Health

In Darjeeling, annual incidents of waterborne diseases dropped by 50% in CHAI project communities.

Significant accomplishments include 1,250 latrines constructed and 26 clean water infrastructure projects completed. 2,000 children reached with hygiene education in schools.

Youth Empowerment

In Assam, 54 youth groups formed with 6,000 youth engaged in projects. The high school dropout rate in Assam is 60%. However, 91% of participants in CHAI Education Retention program continue to higher education. The program also awarded 297 scholarships.

Economic Opportunity

Key results include 65% of youth in the CHAI vocational training program found employment.  2,100 women participated in savings groups, and program supported 1,500 micro-entrepreneurs.

Partnerships & Sustainability

In all CHAI Project areas, communities contribute a significant percentage of the cost of their local infrastructure projects, generally including volunteer labor and construction materials that are available locally. Mercy Corps augments these efforts with technical expertise, and more specialized tools and equipment when necessary. On average, communities contribute approximately half of the value of infrastructure projects. In some case, tea estate management and local government have also begun to contribute to these projects.

For more information on the CHAI Project, visit the MercyCorp in India site.