We have been working with German development agency GIZ and six tea companies as part of a Strategic Alliance in Rwanda and Malawi since 2019, and in Kenya from 2020 to improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers. The project is funded through the develoPPP programme, with which the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports private company initiatives with a sustainable development impact.
Helping farmers to learn and share knowledge to improve their farming practices along with access to financial services can strengthen income diversification. This is important to improve economic resilience for smallholder farmers and their families.
With the support of Lavazza, Jacob Douwe Egberts (JDE), Ostfriesische Tee Gesellschaft (OTG), Taylors of Harrogate, Marks and Spencer and Tata Consumer Products Limited (TCPL) our programme activity focuses on giving smallholder farmers opportunity to learn and share information on new ways to improve agricultural practices through Farmer Field Schools (FFS), as well as learning about income diversification through the introduction of new crops to grow and sell.
This activity is bolstered with financial support through Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs).
Since 2019, 1,477 farmers (690 of which are women) have completed the FFS training in Rwanda and another 2,311 (1,026 of which are women) have just started the training. The FFS curriculum covers topics such as leadership and group dynamics; quality plucking; responsible fertiliser application; pruning; and diversification in crop production.
Since 2019, in Rwanda 1,477 farmers have completed the Farmer Field School training, and another 2,311 have just started.
As part of the learning, farmers have also been supported with seeds for agroforestry tree species to promote soil and water conservation and to enhance soil fertility. In total 53,891 avocado seedlings, 24,888 Calliandra, and 50,567 grevillea seeds have been provided by the programme in Rwanda.
ETP is working alongside the farmers to help them grow these new crops for personal consumption or to explore markets to sell new crops such as avocadoes.
“I have planted agroforestry tree species like grevillea and alnus on my tea farm, which helps the soil and the tea plants.
I have also plant 25 avocado seedlings and I’m now looking into how I could sell avocados to market,” Mbonyimana Francois, a farmer who took part in the farmer field school at Kitabi.
There are 112 Village Saving and Loan Assocation groups consisting of 30-35 people per group across 4 tea estates in Rwanda.
Alongside the Farmer Field Schools, there are 112 VSLA groups consisting of 30-35 people per group across 4 tea estates in Rwanda. The VSLA groups complements FFS as the group members have built up a strong level of trust amongst each other and often the profits from group activities such as shared tea plots and non-tea crop production sales are invested back into the savings fund.
Loans granted through the VSLAs are being used to invest in some of the products and practices recommended through the FFS, such as the purchase of better-quality seeds, fertilisers, and tools.
Liberal Seburikoko, Regional Director (Africa) comments: “Teaching good agricultural practices has helped create a real entrepreneurial spirit amongst farmers.
"They not only want to produce better quality tea but are embracing the growth of new crops like avocado and seeing the potential of selling crops to market.
"They have embraced being part of the Village and Saving Loan Associations and are working together to purchase better products such as seeds and fertilisers to make the most of their shared land and the income they can generate from it.”