Globally agricultural landscapes and food systems are experiencing multiple stresses including increased competition for land and water resources, legacies of sub-optimal agricultural practices, environmental degradation, population pressure, and climate change and variability. Therefore, there is an urgent need to manage agricultural landscapes and food systems appropriately to ensure food security, preserve environmental resources and promote sustainable livelihoods. International trade in tea is among the largest in value among tropical and subtropical crops, yet little attention has been paid to the value of landscapes for livelihood security, or the impact of tea production to climatic variation in these regions.

Consequently, this research is exploring the role of tea in sustaining livelihoods and will increase the scientific understanding of tea landscapes in Assam, North India. Assam is a state with great economic importance in the tea trade and livelihoods are entirely dependent upon tea production. Changes in regional climate provide a potential threat to the production of Assamese tea, both in terms of quality and quantity. This research project is drawing upon the contemporary concept of climate-smart agriculture, which will define and identify socio-ecological limits of the landscape for tea production, to determine where ‘safe spaces’ are located for future production. The full research title and research objectives are:

Climate-smartening Assam’s tea plantation landscapes: defining socio-ecological ‘safe spaces’ for future sustainability.” This research will investigate the nexus of livelihoods, climate change and agricultural practice to locate “safe spaces” for tea plantation landscapes in Assam, India. The research aim will be achieved through the following research objectives:

  1. Quantifying the impact of climatic variables on tea production
  2. Identifying optimal sustainable plantation practices: trade-offs between water, climate and productivity
  3. Determining the role of tea in a climate-smart landscape to facilitate sustainable, food-secure and climate-resilient livelihoods

The funded provided for this project under the UKIERI-DST scheme is intended to strengthen engagement and encourage future potential collaboration between India and UK research institutions, whilst enabling mobility of staff and early career researchers. The research framework for our project outlines our work plan, and exchange visits for our project will be blogged on this website.