The International Trade Centre (ITC)* Director, Arancha Gonzalez recently made her maiden visit to Makomboki Tea factory at the foot of Aberdares, Kenya. Attending a United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), she found time out of her busy schedule to visit this factory to experience the impact of ETP and ITC work in climate change and improving tea farmers’ livelihoods.
This visit was unique in many ways. She was not accompanied by powerful government officials and politicians, there were no speeches at all, it was a simple and informal interaction at the factory and with the smallholders to give her an opportunity to learn, interact, and ‘feel’ the real world of tea growing and processing.
After the informal meeting at the office, the factory manager took the Director and myself through the tea production process so she could see tea being made in real time. It was truly an experience!
What particularly made an impact was seeing the old wood storage facility, an area equivalent to half an acre that only a year ago was full of stored wood, but is now a well manicured public space. Makomboki, along with 10 other KTDA factories has been supported by ETP, ITC, and other partners to rethink their energy use. Makomboki has been a pioneer in this work and alongside energy auditing and implementing a range of efficiency measures, they have been trialing the use of alternative sources of biomass energy including macadamia shells, a local agricultural waste stream, and briquettes made from sawdust, tea waste, and other bio-wastes that are dried, shredded, and compressed.
This combined approach to sustainable energy management has led to Makomboki no longer using wood fuel as a source of energy. ETP is proud to be part of this very transformative and sustainable process, which has been estimated to save up to 60,000 trees per year.
The climax of the tour was the visit by the Director and the team to tea farmers in the field. Not far from the factory, we took a walk through a village track. On either side avocado and macadamia trees stared back at us as we breathed in the fresh air. On arrival, we were taken directly to a farm where we saw climate change adaptation measures implemented by the farmers including crop diversification, water harvesting, and composting. The Director was taken through the tea picking process by a farm worker. She had this to say to the him, “Alex, I have a lot of respect for you and the work you do. As I take a cup tea, I will do so with a lot of respect.”
Indeed, this visit will remain engraved not only in the factory’s history but also in Arancha Gonzalez’s mind because it gave her an opportunity to experience the impact of the project that ETP in partnership with ITC implemented in the last three years. Remarking on the success of the project she noted, “Jane, I am impressed by ETP’s work, you do less talking and more action.” For me, this showed how well she understood our value!
*Established in 1964, the International Trade Centre (ITC) is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations
Watch the video to learn more about ETP’s climate work in Kenya: