SECRET GRAND-MÈRE TEAS: EMPOWERING MOTHERS
Innovation Type: Community Organized
APEDED (Association Pour l'Education des Enfants Defavorises) is an NGO based in Chemin Grenier village in Mauritius. It provides disadvantagedchildren with free pre-primary education. In 2007, the mothers of many of these children lost their jobs after local textile mills closed, and fewalternative employment opportunities existed. They needed an income-generating activity that would keep them close to their families.Furthermore, Mauritius is home to many plant species that are endemic to the island but threatened due to changing climatic conditions –revealing opportunities for creative innovation in the realm of local biodiversity.
Anooradha Pooran, the founder of APEDED, noticed the mothers of the children at her school were struggling to provide basic necessities for theirchildren. Together, they brainstormed various ideas to generate income whilst also combatting the effects of climate change, drawing on localknowledge. They approached UNDP GEF-SGP (Global Environment Facility–Small Grants Program), who created a space for the women to refinetheir ideas and encourage innovation. With this support, the community devised the idea of producing herbal teas from native plants. An initialgrant from GEF-SGP in 2007 helped set up a nursery on the roof of the children’s school. The Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security thenprovided training to the women on organic agricultural techniques including composting, pest management and irrigation.
Together, these efforts culminated in Secret Grandmère, a social enterprise selling herbal and medicinal teas made from native Mauritian plants.Cultivating native plants helps to protect the many threatened endemic species on the island, whilst the tea recipes help preserve the localpractices of traditional medicine. The tea is produced and packaged by 20 women from the village of Chemin Grenier in a facility powered by solarpanels, which also produce additional electricity to sell to the grid to generate additional income – allowing the tea to be sold at competitivemarket prices. To grow enough plants for production, an innovative buy-back system was devised, where seedlings are sold to an additional 50-verfamilies of independent growers who cultivate the plants organically, and earn income by selling the leaves back to the business. First sellinglocally, the SGP soon helped network and identify opportunities to expand sales overseas. A dehydrator, co-funded by the British HighCommission, was then purchased to improve tea shelf-life and increase production. In 2012, the project was awarded a second grant to fund theinstallation of 48 solar panels, making it the first and only NGO in Mauritius to be appraised for small-scale energy production.
Today, the project still employs the same 20 women, and indirectly provides income for 5000 families across the island. It has attractedinternational media attention, and the women have gained communications and entrepreneurial skills, some even setting up their own smallbusinesses selling candles and soap. Even with increased production, the facility’s solar panels still produce excess electricity that is sold to thegrid. The 14,065 kWh of electricity produced annually save 10 tons of carbon emissions and 52 trees. The tea brand continues to be soldcompetitively as a result, and is also now HACCP certified. Production is at 20,000 packets per month; over 50+ varieties of tea produced from 35different native plants are sold across Mauritius and internationally in 8 countries – with plans to expand to other international markets with afocus on reaching younger audiences. A resource book about traditional medicinal practices used in the tea recipes will be developed in comingmonths.
- The UNDP GEF-SGP was able to act as not only a funder, but also a broker, making introductions, finding partnerships andguiding the business through each phase of the project. The combination of a very committed founder who works closely withthe local community, along with the time investment and resources of GEF-SGP, has led to Secret Grandmère's ongoingsustainability and success.
- Public authorities, from local to national level, not only responded to the initiative’s needs, but actively helped to promote andscale it. They expanded the legal framework to allow for the NGO to sell back to the grid; they made connections in the businesscommunity; they even incorporated the teas into official events. This way, the government acted as both partner and enabler invarious capacities, generating a conducive environment for a community-led initiative to thrive and scale.
- The project originated from the impacted community and continues to be led by it. It is sensitive to the needs of thecommunity; for instance, the buy-back programme does not directly employ the growers (many of whom are caregivers whowant to stay home), but still provides them a steady source of income. The project also taps into the local desire to preservecultural practices and natural resources. Those involved in the project possess intimate knowledge of local "grandmothers'secrets" (hence the name of the project) – and are personally invested in its continued success.
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