It was quite surreal driving through Uganda and hearing the news from the Winter Olympics over the car’s radio a few weeks ago. Alpine skiing isn’t exactly hotly debated in this part of the world. But then again, perhaps I wasn’t hanging out with the right crowd. The people I met with were more concerned with the longer than usual drought and the effect this had on tea production, as well as the repercussions of the political unrest in South Sudan and Egypt on the price of Ugandan tea at the Mombasa auction.
I was here to see first-hand the progress that has been achieved as part of the Tata Global Beverages – IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative public – private partnership to scale up sustainable tea production and improve smallholder livelihoods.
As well as helping make factories safer and happier places to work through occupational health and safety and communication training, the project has helped improve agrochemical safety, responsible waste management, and sanitation in worker accommodation to name a few.
The support we’re providing to smallholder farmers centres on productivity and quality improvements. Through Farmer Field Schools, groups of farmers are trained on better agricultural practices, which should not only lead to higher yields but also help farmers be better prepared for the impact of climate change, for example through the introduction of shade trees and improved fertiliser application.
With the population in Uganda doubling in the past 10 years, deforestation is a huge problem due to communities encroaching further and further into forested-areas. To help address this issue, the project is helping tea communities access energy saving stoves. We will also working with workers, farmers, and a network of local nutritionists to help families develop kitchen gardens to improve the nutritional content of their diets.
Pictures by Norman Ricky Mukuru, ETP’s associate in Uganda