Better yields for tea farmers in Kenya

Over 300,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya have met the standards required for Rainforest Alliance certification. This is the result of a collaboration between Unilever, the Rainforest Alliance (RA) and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA). It has led to better yields and higher incomes. Now the aim is to bring more farmers into the certification scheme.

Field school training for farmers

Up to 60% of the tea grown in Kenya comes from smallholder farmers, 28% of them women. The remainder is grown on tea estates. For Unilever to meet its demand for high-quality tea, it needs to buy from the smallholder sector, which is organised through the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA). In 2006, the Unilever Lipton brand set out a goal to source all tea for its teabags from sustainable sources by 2015, thereby improving farming practices while adding brand value.

To ensure that sustainability practices are followed all along the supply chain, Unilever is working with KTDA to secure Rainforest Alliance certification for all 560,000 of KTDA’s growers. In practice, this means educating smallholder farmers about sustainable cultivation and RA certification through a system of farmer field schools.

To date over 300,000 farmers have taken part in farmer field school training, and gained RA certification. All of KTDA’s factories are now RA certified.

As a result, many of KTDA’s smallholder farmers, who rely on tea for about two-thirds of their income, are seeing better yields (up to 35% increase), and, importantly, an overall improvement in their own and their families’ income, health and education.