Good Practice: Taking a ‘Leaf’ from Kenya

This week twenty professionals from the Sri Lankan tea industry are taking part in a study tour of Kenya to look at different approaches and learn about best practices in Kenyan tea production. WUSC, CARE, and Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) are responsible for organising the trip, which was first envisaged at the Industry in Transition workshop last year. During the workshop there was a consensus that rising costs and decreasing productivity are two of the main issues that threaten the sustainability of the Sri Lankan Tea industry.

The aim of the trip is to help participants to understand the costs and benefits of implementing alternative mechanisms for managing labour on plantations including social support (provision of worker housing, water and energy etc.) and implementing outgrower models. Participants will also learn best practices for achieving certification and maintaining good social and environmental standards on tea plantations.

ETP’s Kenyan team (Jane and Wagurah) have made sure the Sri Lankan contingent will meet with key Kenyan institutions. Dushy Perera, ETP Regional Manager for Sri Lanka is part of the 20-strong tour party, which is made up of Regional Plantation Company CEOs, Tea Estate Managers, Trade Unionists, and representatives of NGOs. During the trip the party will meet with professionals from the Tea Board of Kenya, the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya, and will visit two large and two small tea estates and their associated factories.

Before they left Sri Lanka the participants attended a workshop at the Tea Research Institute of Columbo, where they identified key learning goals. These included: gender issues; social welfare support; innovative worker management practices; environmental management; and outgrower models for Fairtrade Certification and quality enhancement etc.

After the trip all participants will be expected to write a follow up report within their organisations and present findings to their colleagues to help catalyse change. A consultation will also take pace with relevant government bodies, and a 2-day follow up workshop later in the year will be used to capture key learnings and subsequent improvements.