Tackling climate change and deforestation in tea communities

Climate change is one of the major risks faced by the world today. The effects of climate change will impact how and where tea can be grown. This has serious implications for the people who depend on tea for a living. Small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable.

The context

Climate change is one of the major risks faced by the world today. The effects of climate change will impact how and where tea can be grown. This has serious implications for the people who depend on tea for a living. Small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable.

Tea production is threatened by a range of climate driven stresses including rising temperatures, droughts, frosts, shifting and unpredictable weather patterns as well as changing incidences of pests and diseases.

Deforestation is another major environmental threat, which exacerbates the effects of climate change and has a range of negative impacts on tea communities.

Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos

Our aims

We support the tea industry and those who depend on it to understand how climate change will affect tea growing regions. We work together to develop and implement approaches to adapt to its impacts.

We work closely with tea communities to build their resilience to the effects of climate change, so that they can continue to provide for their families.

We help the tea industry to reduce its carbon footprint, become more energy efficient and lower its emissions. We support the sector and the communities within it to tackle deforestation, access renewable energy and to reduce their reliance on fuelwood.

A tea estate in Sri Lanka
Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos

Our impact

We bring together the right strategic partnerships to accelerate action across the tea industry, in order to deliver meaningful, long-term progress on tackling environmental issues.

For example, together with Natural Capital Partners we were part of the Talanoa Dialogue in October 2018. We supported this global movement to inspire businesses to scale their climate ambition and reach net zero carbon emissions.

Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos

We work with experts to develop maps highlighting the future impact of climate change in tea growing regions around the world up until 2050. These have been important tools to help the industry and tea farmers understand the likely consequences of climate change, and to generate commitment to action.

Credit: Andy Hall

Supporting farmers

We have supported hundreds of thousands of farmers across Africa to adapt their farms and farming practices so that they can deal with climate change. Going further, our programmes improve farmers’ incomes and resilience to shocks – as we support them to diversify, create savings opportunities and help develop their business skills. Collectively, we are improving their lives and longer-term prospects.

We’ve accelerated efforts to develop new tea clones, which are better adapted to suit future conditions. We help farmers access these clones, so that they can continue to depend on tea to make a living. For example, we supported Kenyan farmers to plant over half a million drought and frost resistant tea clones.

Credit: Andy Hall

Addressing deforestation

In Kenya, we’ve helped farmers to plant over 3 million trees. Not only does this tackle deforestation, farmers can see immediate benefits as there’s less need to buy or gather wood to use as fuel.

Our work to improve tea factory energy efficiency in Kenya is saving 300,000 trees every year, and significantly reducing how much money is spent on energy. As farmers own the factories, these savings directly improve their incomes.

Credit: Andy Hall

In Malawi, we have supported 22 groups of farmers to set up tree nurseries. Trees are grown to replant the forest, to be used as firewood, construction and for fruit production. So far 60,000 trees have been planted, and we expect 180,000 to have been planted by 2020.

Credit: Andy Hall

Developing beekeeping in important forest areas is another way we have been working with Malawian tea communities to conserve forests. Keeping bees is a key source of additional income, and keeping the hives in the forest is good for the bees and wildlife. It also increases local commitment to forest conservation, and acts as a deterrent to anyone felling wood.

Credit: Andy Hall

Renewable energy

We have been increasing access to renewable and clean energy in tea communities. In Malawi, we have so far helped farmers to purchase 3,000 solar products and 4,000 fuel-efficient cookstoves. In Kenya, we have supported farmers to purchase 27,000 fuel-efficient cookstoves.

Along with reducing the need for fuelwood, these initiatives change families’ lives – they reduce health risks and save money. They also save considerable time relating to collecting wood and cooking, which is particularly beneficial for women.

Find out more

Learn more about ETP’s environment programmes here.