Project into the third year

Progress of the Project: “Mapping and capacity building of tea plantation workers and little-known ethnic communities of Bangladesh”

Funded by European Union and ICCO Cooperation, the project started in May 2013. The Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) is implementing the project and Gram Bikash Kendra (GBK) is the partner. Most of the activities planned for the first two years under the three-year project, starting in May 2015, have been implemented and the results of actions have been significant.

Communities mapped: The tea plantation workers and their communities—one group of final beneficiaries of the project—are “tied” to the labor lines in the tea gardens and are one of the most marginalized and excluded groups of people in Bangladesh. One key activity of the project is to map the communities who live in the labour lines of the tea gardens. The communities in the tea gardens are astonishingly diverse, but they have never been properly mapped before. It is under this project that these communities have been mapped through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), interviews and literature review. The research teams conducted FGDs in all 157 gardens.

The findings of mapping of the tea communities have been astonishing. Around 90 communities (indigenous, ethnic and caste minorities) have been found in 157 tea gardens in Sylhet, Hobiganj, Moulvibazar, Chittagong, and Rangamati districts. These communities are: Almik, Orao, Oria, Kanda, Karmakar, Kalwar, Kanu, Kahar, Kalindi, Kairi, Kumar, Kurmi, Keot, Kora, Kol, Khodal, Kharia, Goyeswar, Gondo/Ganju, Garait, Gorh, Garo, Gurkha, Gouri, Goswami, Goala, Giri, Ghatuar, Chasha, Jainti Patro, Jora, Dusad, Nayek, Naidu, Noonia, Telegu, Tongla, Tanti, Teli, Tripura, Pradhan, Patro, Pal, Pahan, Panikha, Pashi, Pandit, Phulmali, Bonaj, Chowhan, Bhokta, Lohar, Banai, Bauri, Barma, Baraik, Banshfor, Bagti, Bangali, Been, Bunerjee, Bihari, Bhuyian, Bhumij, Vor, Bhujpuri, Mridha, Madraji, Marma, Mal, Mahle, Mahara, Majhi, Monipuri, Mushohor, Munda, Rautia, Rajbollov, Rajbangshi, Rajvor, Rajghor, Rajuar, Robidas, Shobdokor, Shobor, Sheel, Shuklaboddo, Sadri, Sadhu, Santal, Halam, Hajra, Relay.

Another group of final beneficiaries mapped are little-known ethnic communities in the Northwest and North-center of Bangladesh. It is though similar methodology that these communities have been mapped in these regions. In addition to the 13 ethnic communities in 14 districts in the Northwest and five districts in the North-center recognized by the government around 45 ethnic communities have been found in these districts.  These communities are:  Hajong, Koch, Banai, Dalu, Hodi, Shabar, Rajbongshi/Bongshi, Gurkha, Bagti, Banai, Bhuiya, Bhuimali, Bhumij, Bindu, Chowhan, Ghatual or Ghatuar, Ganju Singh, Gorait, Ho, Hajra, Hari, Hodi, Kadar, Kairi, Kalwar, Rai Barman (Khatryio), Koda, Kora, Karmakar, Kol, Koch, Munda, Paharia, Kurmi, Madak, Mahali/Mahle, Lohar, Malo, Mushohor, Noonia, Pahan, Pal, Teli, Robidas, Rajbhor, Rajwar, Tanti/Tantubai, Telegu, Teli, Turi, etc.

Investigations: One key activity for examination of human rights condition of the final beneficiaries was investigation. With participation and help of the project staff, associated organizations, final beneficiaries, workshop participants, and journalists, investigations were carried out in many areas. The key investigation areas during two years were: disputes over land of the ethnic communities that led to killings, arson attack, demolition of houses, and physical attack on ethnic men and women; attack on tea workers; education in the tea gardens; special economic zone on khet or cropland in the tea gardens; life and struggle of the tea workers and some ethnic communities in very difficult geogrphy and conditions; use of asbestos in the tea gardens; wages and fringe benefits in the tea gardens; abuses related to rubber plantation in the tea gardens; land grabbing; elections of Bangladesh Tea Workers Association (BCSU), etc.

The inventory, mapping, investigation, and research have resulted in reports, knowledge, and analysis, which will be published in books and shared with final beneficiaries, targets and all shareholders.

Skill and capacity building activities: It is mainly through training, workshops and dialogues that essential knowledge and skills have been shared among the final beneficiaries, targets and stakeholders. During two years of the project, five residential workshops have scaled up skills of the actors dealing with rights issues of the ethnic communities and tea workers, their maps, identities and cultures. Capacity building trainings have also strengthened skills and capacity of trade union leaders in the tea industry and officials and executives of organizations of ethnic communities in other areas.

Publications and productions: For the first two years publications and productions remain limited to leaflet, brochure, newsletter (two issues including the current one), two posters, yearly calendar and investigative reports published in magazines in particular. Preparations are going on for production of two training manuals, one volume on the communities in the tea gardens, one volume on the little-known ethnic communities in the Northwest and North-center of Bangladesh and one photo album on communities in both tea gardens and other project areas. Besides, photos on life, struggles and culture of the both tea workers and ethnic communities will be displayed in two photography exhibitions. A documentary film      focused on land issues of the Adivasis and tea workers is also being made.

Important activities to be done in the last year of the project period

Dialogue: A dialogue on ‘Mapping and rethinking the identity and rights of the tea workers and their communities’ in Srimongol in November 2015.

Final training for selected participants of all targets: A final training for the project participants including the final beneficiaries and selected representatives in February 2016.

Convention: A national convention in January 2016. The final beneficiaries and representatives from all the stakeholders of the project will attend the convention. It is an advocacy program along with a learning program on the rights of the final beneficiaries.

Photography exhibitions: Two photography exhibitions—one on the tea workers and the other on little-known ethnic communities. One will be organized with the convention and the other organized separately. Identity, life, culture and struggle of the tea workers and little-known ethnic communities will be portrayed in photos of the exhibitions.