Journey to a Nepal tea estate - in pictures

Al McLeod from Brooke UK ‘snapped’ his way around a tea estate on a recent trip to Nepal to see first-hand the effect Brooke’s formation of community groups has had on  equine owners and their animals. 

Samal Valley tea estate in Ilam, Nepal

The journey to the Samal Valley tea estate in Ilam district involved a steep climb up a road of broken tarmac in poor condition that reduced in places to a muddy track.

A steep climb to the tea estate

It was decided not to risk the vehicle further and we walked the last 20 minutes into the community.

End of the road for our vehicle

On arrival we had a meeting with a group of owners from the three wards of the Samalbung village development committee.

The first horse owners group we visited 

Most owners have one horse. They are used for carrying agricultural commodities, especially vegetables, to market. Their horses also carry tea leaves from collection points close to the fields to the local tea factory.

Tea fields

They can travel for an hour and a half to bring tea to the factory and also farm a field of tea as a smallholding, so as equine transport providers they can carry their own tea as well as their neighbours’ leaves to the factory on a daily basis in season.

Tea fields stretch into the distance

This was the group’s second meeting after forming two months earlier. As a group they support each other on welfare matters and receive education sessions from the Animal Health Training and Consultancy Service (AHTCS).

They also gained access to an equine insurance scheme initiated by a local cooperative, and one member of the group has received farriery training. 

He shod 35 animals in two months. Each foot is charged at 50 rupees (around 35p) including the cost of the shoe. He is also showing other horse owners how to do it correctly without harming the animal so that they can ‘learn by seeing’, to eventually do it themselves.

Horses laden with tea leaves struggle up the final slope to the tea factory


Associated with poor hoof care and the often treacherous condition of the tracks horses travel along, the group has come to realise that hoof shape has a role to play in avoiding lameness.

Horses resting after sacks of freshly picked tea are unloaded at the factory

Tea is loaded onto a ‘ski-lift’ conveyor, carrying it up into the factory

Tea leaves on racks ready for the first stage of withering

The manager of the tea factory - who has been in charge of the plant since its establishment four years ago – said his key concern was improving quality in order to acquire organic accreditation and so gain access to a bigger market. 

We suggested that the role of and treatment of equines in the story of tea could be part of his criteria for improvements on the road to organic status.

The bud and two leaves at the tip of the tea plant produce the finest Ilam tea

Shree Antu village development committee

There were 14 members in the group and half the group had walked one hour to meet with us. Most owned one horse each for vegetable and tea transportation. 

The team – Suk Deo with Nabin and Amit from AHTCS (l to r)

Since being associated with AHTCS they have learnt to use the correct medicine for deworming instead of the types used for cattle and buffalo. 

Ilam is one of 18 districts Brooke works in in Nepal. It’s estimated that 100,000 working horses and donkeys play an important role in supporting the livelihoods of approximately one million people.

In 2007, Brooke started a Working Equine Welfare Project in partnership with the Animal Health Training Consultancy Service, which was given a Special Recognition Award for its work during the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake by Ceva Animal Health in the UK.

See also

This manual helps explain the animal welfare issues that affect horses, donkeys and mules working in developing countries.