China produces the greatest volume of tea in the world, and much of it is grown by the 15 million small-scale tea farmers in the country. In China farmers are generally not tied to a cooperative or particular factory, and many have not participated in organised training.
Working with farmers, we found that they were not always aware of the risks of using agrochemicals to their health, or to the environment. We also found that many were over-using fertiliser, which leads to poor soil and plant quality. It also reduces the profitability of farms.
Our goal is to support farmers to grow quality tea with minimal use of agrochemicals. As well as improving the health of farmers and their environment, reducing agrochemical use also saves farmers money – meaning that they can earn more from their crop.
Our hands-on Farmer Field School training is driven by farmers’ needs and provides expert advice on a range of agricultural practices. Farmers are encouraged to work together as a group to identify their challenges and determine solutions. We aim to equip farmers with the practical knowledge and understanding of how best to overcome the challenges that they themselves have identified.
We partner with leading Chinese organisation Tea Research Institute (TRI), CAAS to deliver this programme.
In 2018, over 400 farmers took part in our Farmer Field Schools in China and over half were women. By the end of 2019 we will reach a further 400 farmers.
Farmers chose to focus on pest identification and monitoring, determining how best to use alternative, environmentally friendly methods to control pests. We also supported farmers to reduce their reliance on chemical fertilisers.
The training has led to tangible successes. After taking part in Farmer Field School, farmers had significantly increased their understanding of effective agricultural approaches. The number of farmers using organic fertiliser more than doubled. Farmers also demonstrated a greater understanding of agrochemical use, with a significant number now applying fertiliser little and often, rather than large amounts irregularly.
Farmers continue to learn and support each other via groups we set up on Chinese social messaging platform WeChat. Close to 100 farmers share photos and videos of their crops, new technologies and discuss how best to overcome challenges. Farmers are encouraged to share their own solutions, and we monitor the groups to ensure accurate information is shared – linking farmers with expert advice when needed.
Find out more
Learn more about ETP’s activity in China, including the work we’re doing to improve tea workers’ lives.