If you’ve been reading this series of posts then you’ll know that key figures from the Sri Lankan tea industry had been touring Kenya on a mission to learn about best practices in tea sustainability. As part of the trip our group was fortunate enough to attend the KTDA* Chinga Tea Factory Farmer Field School graduation ceremony for newly trained ‘lead’ farmers. The ceremony was a great day and in the evening everyone reflected on an exhaustive tour of the tea industry in Kenya over the preceding week.
At the start of the trip we first travelled west of the Rift Valley to the tea growing districts of Kericho where most of the company owned estates are located and marveled at the flat and undulating carpets of tea. We then headed East of the Rift Valley to where most of the KTDA Factories are situated.
The Great Rift Valley extends some 9,600km from the Red Sea in the north of Africa down to Mozambique in the south. Our journey took us to the tea-packing factory of KETEPA, The Tea Research Foundation, Chmogonday Tea Factory where we were shown the factory’s impressive wastewater purification system, and to a cut flower farm to draw experience from a different sector. East of the valley we visited the Mununga and Chinga tea factories, smallholder tea farms, and leaf collection points.
Along the way we witnessed a lot of best practice approaches and a number of new ways of doing things such as forestry management and fuel wood storage at KTDA factories, electronic leaf weighing using Bluetooth® record keeping, satisfaction studies of economic and social standards, and rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation systems among many others.
A highlight for me personally was seeing the newly trained farmers graduate from the Farmer Field School as it represented an investment in people - the future stewards of the tea industry if you like! During the ceremony dance recitals and field dramas performed by the graduates themselves added to the sense of the occasion. In addition our party delighted the Kenyan crowd with our own dance and song. The group as a whole felt very honoured when the KTDA Chinga Board invited Dr. Dan Seevaratman CEO of Watawala Plantations to present an outstanding achievement award to one of the farmers.
With the trip still fresh in my mind it’s apparent how invaluable the whole experience has been. Everyone on the tour and especially the two CEOs have been very complimentary of the ETP for arranging such a diverse trip of the Kenyan tea industry. I would also like to praise WUSC for the initiative and financial backing for helping to make the trip such a success.