Hello all, my name is Jerry Whittle1 and I’ve been a Mars Associate since 1998. I work in the site utilities department in the Hackettstown plant.
Over the last few years three associates from our group have participated in the Mars Ambassador Program (MAP), which is a way for Mars Associates to make a positive difference to people and the planet though mutually beneficial, hands-on experiences that we call MAP Assignments. Two of these associates worked rebuilding coral reefs on the island Pulau Badi while the other worked with cocoa farmers in Vietnam.
I was inspired by their stories and in April 2015 applied for an individual MAP Assignment. I felt fortunate and excited to learn I had been chosen to work with the Mars Drinks Origin Program and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) to help support sustainability and energy saving efforts for tea processing factories in Kenya, Africa.
I left for Nairobi Kenya on October 24th, 2015 to work with associates from the ETP and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA). During the following four weeks I travelled Kenya touring 6 different KTDA tea factories. The assignments ranged from conducting in depth energy audits, training for factory workers on climate change, energy saving measures, and best sustainability practices as well as follow ups on previously conducted energy audits. Learning about the tea making process from the bright green tea leaves being harvested in the field to the final product was really interesting. During my visit I worked with Hilary Rono, Energy Manager for KTDA, Bernard Njoroge, Special Program Coordinator ETP, and Patrick Kamari, ETP energy consultant and other KTDA regional engineers.
Although the factories in Kenya and the USA are thousands of miles apart the common ground is the commitment to climate change mitigation and lowering energy costs. KTDA estimates that energy (electricity and fuel wood) account for 60% of the total cost of production at the factory. Therefore, saving energy is not only good for the environment but the bottom line too. In the case of KTDA factories, savings are passed directly to the smallholders who own the factories, which means better livelihoods for thousands of farmers!
In order to realise savings it’s extremely important that all employees are empowered to make a positive contribution. After all, a site’s energy efficiency performance is only as good as the people that implement it – in this case the KTDA factory staff. Which brings me nicely onto my next point. Working and interacting with the factory staff during site visits and trainings was truly rewarding and is what made the trip such an incredible experience. The generosity, positive attitude, and work ethic of my Kenyan counterparts may have left me a little lost for words but it’s something I will never forget.
The term life changing may sound cliché to some people but as a MAP participant I can testify to the accuracy of the statement. It’s great to witness first hand how the program and work of the ETP and KTDA is delivering tangible improvements and I’m adamant that the factories will continue to realise further savings.
Before I finish I would like to thank everyone for all the well wishes I have received. Special thanks to Mars Drinks group associates who reached out with travel advice and in country information. Lastly I would like to thank Richard Bond and Rachel Cracknell for providing insight on the collaborative efforts by the ETP and Mars Drinks. You are truly helping to improve the lives of the tea farmers and area residents.