Smallholder training

Improving smallholder livelihoods, Indonesia

While smallholders are increasingly important to world tea production many struggle to make a decent living from tea. We partnered with IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and worked with 3 cooperatives from West Java and West Sumatra, and the factories they supply, on a three-year project to help more than 1,000 farmers secure better livelihoods from tea.

Good practice farming

Working closely with local experts we helped farmers increase their yields and produce better quality tea. Ultimately this means they’re able to secure a better deal for themselves with the processing factories they supply. The training was based on best practice farming and has the added benefit of increasing their resilience to the effects of climate change.

Cooperative support & access to finance

Helping farmers access affordable finance means they can invest in materials that help improve the productivity of their plots. As part of the project, Rabobank International developed credit schemes suitable for farmers and helped the co-operatives improve the services they provide to members. To date Rabobank has committed $150,000 in smallholder loans.

Access to new and improved tea bushes

In West Sumatra a key factor behind poor yields was low bush density. This was the result of smallholders not being able to replace old, diseased, or fire-damaged plants. To address this we developed a tea bush nursery with the cooperative and the local plantation company (PTPNVI), which supplied 500,000 affordable bushes to local farmers.

Linking smallholders to the market

To help farmers understand market requirements in terms of quality, tea buyers from ETP member companies visited the project and spoke with them about what they look for when buying tea. In addition we developed practical guidance for smallholders on how to meet international social and environmental standards.

Key achievements

  • Significant improvements in productivity and income – more than double in some cases
  • Good practice disseminated across local communities – lead farmers have trained 1,442 of their peers
  • Spread of good practice nationally. One lead farmer won the Governors Medal for high productivity increases, and groups from across Indonesia have visited his plot to see first-hand the techniques employed
  • The Indonesian Tea Board has been advocating the approaches to the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Trade, and local government has offered greater help to smallholder tea farmers
  • Farmers are receiving daily payments from factories they supply and have greater access to affordable finance