Under the Upscaling and Embedding Sustainability for Smallholder Tea Farmers, a collaborative initiative by Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services (KTDA-MS), Unilever and IDH - the Sustainable Trade Initiative, about 15 per cent of the 560,000 KTDA farmers have received the training
The programme, which started in 2009,is aimed at improving tea production through better farm practices as well as helping farmers to diversify their income by growing other crops and rearing livestock.
In the second phase of the programme, between 2013 and 2015, the three partners spent about Sh140 million on the programme.
The farmers have been trained on best practices in nursery establishment, planting, plucking, plant nutrition, pruning, pest management and agrochemical use among others.
Following a recent impact study, data indicates a sustained increase in greenleaf production as a result of the FFS with the good agricultural practices partly credited for the improvement.
Speaking at the ceremony to mark the conclusion of the partnership in Kericho, LerionkaTiampati, Chief Executive at KTDA said: “To quantify the gains of FFS, the annual green leaf production generally has risen from lows of 727 million kilograms in 2008/2009 Financial Year to highs of 1,233 million kilos in 2015/16 Financial Year. The increase in green leaf production has generally had a positive correlation with the income earned, despite gradual fall in tea prices in some years. During the 2015/16 Financial Year, for example, KTDA earned the smallholder tea farmers a record KSh84 billion revenue, compared to 63.5b earned in the 2014/15 Financial Year.“The program has also improved the fortunes of tea farmers through diversification of income base, earning them an extra revenue from tea farming and other enterprises,” Mr Tiampati said.
Jordy van Honk, Program Director Tea at IDH said: “Starting off with 700 farmers we have now reached over 85,000 farmers in 8 years through the FFS, and by integrating the training with Rainforest Alliance certification. The project improved the relationship between farmers and the KTDA, increased the number of women in leadership capacity, and led to improved nutrition and diversification- an unprecedented achievement at scale”.
Sylvia Ten Den, Procurement Director Tea Africa at Unilever said: “The Farmer field Schools have not only given the farmers the opportunity to learn how to improve tea quality but also delivered social benefits – such as income diversification, health and improved food and nutrition. It has been a real privilege for Unilever to support such a worthy programme that is deeply connected to our Sustainable Living Plan and in particular, our aim to enhance the livelihoods of millions of people in our Supply Chain and beyond”.
KTDA will now solely proceed with the programme until the over 560,000 farmers under it are trained on the beneficial practices. The trained farmers will now train their fellow growers.
The training also helps farmers to improve on the quality of leaf as well as introduce climate change adaptation strategies to small scale tea growers and train on social issues like labour and gender.
Farmers learned to grow other products resulting in more income, such as from dairy and poultry farming, tomato and cabbage production, and the raising of tree seedlings to sell.
Owing to the success of the FFS programme, KTDA plans to replicate the model to train farmers on proper financial management. The financial literacy programme launched last year will see KTDA equip trainer farmers with the necessary skills who will in turn train their fellow growers.
Under this programme, farmers will be trained on matters regarding budgets, profits and expenses at family and farm levels, costs management and management of monthly income among others.
Also present during the event was KTDA vice-chairman Philip Ng’etich, senior managers from Unilever and IDH, and thousands of graduated FFS farmers.