In Kenya and across East Africa poverty, job insecurity, alcoholism, and low levels of education have negative impacts on rural communities. Farmers, workers, and community leaders can live in hopelessness and feel powerless to change the situation. Such situations have also had a negative impact on the younger generation who have been put off tea farming because their parents’ financial status has remained relatively poor. Worryingly as a tea farmer myself that poses a massive challenge for the sustainability of tea farming in Kenya.
To make matters worse, many women and young adults have accepted a position of passiveness in the community. What I mean by this is that they wait for opportunities to be created by men (husbands, fathers, and other male leaders) before positively participating in change. Rather than actively doing something themselves many bemoan the situation in silence.
What can be done?
Through our work with M&S I was introduced to a fantastic organisation called Emerging Leaders, who have been training inspirational figures from M&S supply chains to become standout leaders. Ultimately these individuals are empowered to run projects, large and small, that positively impact on their own communities. A couple of months ago I was trained in the Emerging Leaders approach, which will help me enormously to help tea workers and smallholder farmers improve their lives and livelihoods. At the bottom of this post I have included a video made by Emerging Leaders that explains how it works, but I think the words of Gandhi, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ best sums up the approach!
What does this mean for tea communities?
A few weeks ago I worked with Emerging Leaders as a trainer and delivered leadership training to 340 participants (workers, factories directors, pastors, priests, teachers) from 10 tea factories in the Mt. Kenya region.
The training, which was truly mind transforming, gave participants tools to carry out self-evaluation and help them identify ways to exert a positive influence. It was clear to all the participants that the way out of difficult even hopeless situations is by good leadership operating at four levels: the self (individual), relationships, groups, and communities. Over the three days you could see how the training was having a positive effect on the participants and giving them the strength and appetitive to make a difference. One message that stood out for me was that ‘we have an ability to initiate positive change in communities to any emerging problem or challenge at any one time.’
I have listed below how I feel the Emerging Leaders training will have a positive impact on tea communities both at home and in the work place:
- Self confidence in women and youths as they actively participate in bringing the desired change in their homes and community.
- Farmers will be better able to evaluate and identify good farming practices including the introduction of new commodities, and management skills such as financial management and record keeping, leading to better profitability.
- Farmers will be able to analyse their own strengths and
skills, which they can then share with fellow farmers and the wider community to increase prosperity. Where conservation is needed, the farmers will be able to make the right decisions.
- Farmers will value the training they undertake and the certifications they receive. This means they’re likely to attend training in the first place and will implement new approaches with ease.
- Farmers will help to identifying potential leaders that represent them, as well as selecting projects including Fairtrade initiatives that impact positively on their communities.
- Communities will be strengthened by focusing on teamwork and working for a collaborative cause, and family and relationships will be improved leading to better home life.
- Attracting youth to agriculture and other enterprising activities resulting in lower levels of youth employment and job insecurity – some of this income generating activity maybe ‘outside’ traditional farming activity.
For me the Emerging Leaders training has been a truly inspirational activity, and I’m glad to say that some of my African colleagues have already participated in the training. I also know that we’re looking to embed this training into our programmes from other regions. So watch this space for more updates about Emerging Leaders and how it’s impacting on tea communities around the world!