Senna, Water & Women: How Social Business is Changing Lives


Rajasthan, India is one of the driest places on earth, where temperatures in the Thar Desert can reach as high as 122°F. Local farmers must therefore rely upon drought-resistant, native plants like senna—an active ingredient in our Smooth Move® teas—for their livelihoods. While senna may be drought-tolerant, impoverished villagers suffer deeply from the lack of water—particularly women and girls, who are forced to walk miles every day in search of community ponds to quench the thirst of their families, crops, and livestock. Physically and emotionally exhausted from carrying heavy pots of water on their heads, they must also suffer the threats of female infanticide, poverty, child marriages, widespread illiteracy, and a life in veiled confinement.

After witnessing these conditions, we began imagining a different future for these women and their families. In 2009, along with our partners—Traditional Medicinals Foundation, WomenServe, Martin Bauer and Umalaxmi—we launched the Revive Project, the largest social development program in our herb sourcing communities. In 2017 our nonprofit partner, WomenServe, took over management of this project and expanded their scope of work around women and children in the Thar Desert. Traditional Medicinals continues to support, advocate, and participate in supporting senna farmers in Rajasthan. To date, the work by WomenServe and Traditional Medicinals in Rajasthan has benefitted six communities, with some 28,000 villagers. Together, we have desilted and expanded nine large community ponds, dug and rebuilt 145 agricultural rainwater catchment systems and constructed 582 underground rainwater catchments, called taankas, for families in need. Some might think of our support as “giving back.” We call it social business. The only way our company can prosper is when all of the parties who contribute to our business prosper.

With access to water, entire communities are transforming, and women are the program’s greatest beneficiaries. Free of the burden of transporting water and free of the anxiety of providing water for their families, they are becoming empowered village leaders, and their girls are now attending school. WomenServe has continued to work to establish 14 EducateHer schools, enrolling 2,465 students in 2019.

Watch the two-minute video to learn more about how water is transforming lives. You can also visit WomenServe to make a donation or read our Impact Report to find out about the other social development projects we fund in our sourcing communities.

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