"Tea is the world's favourite beverage, after water, and it provides a livelihood for millions of people around the globe. These projects show that the industry is committed to helping smallholder farmers and workers earn a decent wage and farm better, and that it understands that this is fundamental to building secure supply chains and future success." So says Sarah Roberts who leads the Ethical Tea Partnership or ETP. The projects she is talking about involve a much more sustainable approach than the well-known tea plantations. The ideas were delivered this week in London at "Team Up," the annual major conference of the tea industry.
Already Farmer Field Schools in Kenya have increased yields by 33% in over 48,000 small farms. They now continue their techniques in Asia and elsewhere in Africa. The ETP work with The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDT) in India and Vietnam as well as Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. Many major tea brands are involved and prestigious conservation movements such as the Rainforest Alliance.
Securing supply chains and building a "brand" for the teas produced is critical in the projects. Apparently 8 million small farmers should be brought into the safer environment provided as they produce 70% of the "world's favourite beverage." It is their livelihoods and production techniques that are causing concern, with Rainforest Alliance Certification a late addition to the achievements gained by the successful tea growers. Costs are low over the 12-month programme that illustrates different possible farming techniques. However, 25% of the course can include optional kitchen garden or livestock handling diversifications. Its' likely that one farmer can also train his or her neighbours in the novel parts of the programme. Good news spreads fast!
Basically the whole programme has:
Improved production and yield
Increased gross margins
Improved farm management
Achieved greater diversification of income
Achieved better living standards, and
Improved health and safety.
Other programmes now aim to help 100,000 Kenyan farmers secure their farms against climate change there and be aware of affordable finance for their improvements. This involves tree planting (for shade and nitrogen enrichment of soils), rainwater harvesting, and drip-irrigation. Clones of drought and frost resistant teas are also being grown, to emphasise a more scientific approach to problems in these environments. Malawi and Uganda will also soon be involved.
Information on how to find out about these initiatives can be found at - The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP).