Empowering Tea Smallholders Worldwide

ETPLogoLONDON, U.K. – Skill in growing tea and the expertise to produce unique styles has sustained China’s 300,000 growers for thousands of years. While relatively few make tea, they all make sufficient money to be self-sufficient.

That is a goal of a very successful pilot training program in Kenya established by the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative. On Wednesday ETP announced a coalition of major tea companies would expand the program to 200,000 smallholders in Africa and Asia’s tea growing countries within the next three years.

ETP’s Kenya experiment already has helped 48,000 small tea farmers with hands-on training in irrigation, composting, plant nutrition and protection from insects.  Yields increased by a third among participants and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has responded by establishing 1,600 Farmer Field Schools.

“Tea 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,” said ETP Executive Director Sarah Roberts.

Targeted nations include Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, India and Vietnam. The effort is funded by multi-nationals that include Unilever and Tata Global Beverage and Taylors of Harrogate producers of Yorkshire Tea.

Third party certifiers including the Rainforest Alliance are championing the effort and financing has also come from The Wood Family Trust and Gatsby Charitable foundation.

In London last week delegates to the annual TEAm Up conference identified key social and idhlogoenvironmental issues affecting the sector and explored how action to tackle them can secure supply chains and build brands’ reputation. ETP and IDH, joint hosts of the event, updated producers, packers and retailers on the progress of their pioneering projects.

“It is amazing to see how the tea industry is making serious efforts and investments to address difficult issues such as wages and smallholder inclusion,” said IDH Chief Executive Joost Oorthuizen. “These and other deeply rooted problems, that only a few years ago were ‘owned’ by civil society groups, are now high on the agenda of the international tea industry. We can use this positive energy by working together, and collaborating with retailers, government agencies and NGOs, who all have a part to play.”
Learn more at: Ethical Tea Partnership