11,000 Kenyan farmers reach Fairtrade status thanks to massive co-operative project

A groundbreaking Fairtrade project to support 11,000 Kenyan farmers has almost reached its completion.

A groundbreaking Fairtrade project to support 11,000 Keyan farmers has almost reached its completion.

In one of the biggest Fairtrade projects of its kind, which worked from the grassroots upwards with farmers, FinTea Growers has received its Fairtrade certification to allow it to sell Fairtrade tea.

Following a rigorous inspection from the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation, the tea will eventually make its way on to the shelves to become the Co-operative Group’s ‘99 Fairtrade Tea’ in the UK, which will be supplied through blender Finlays.

Funding to reach this stage was organised through the two-year-long Kibagenge project, set up by Finlay, the Co-operative Group, international development organisation Africa Now! and the UK’s Co-operative College. The consortium secured funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH). Kibagenge is an expression that translates as “coming together as one” in Kalenjin, a local language.

Find out more about the project . . .

One of the producers in Africa, 67-year-old Joseph Cheruiyot is set to tour the UK throughout Fairtrade Fortnight with the Co-operative Group to tell his story of the challenges farmers faced to gain certification; and what the future will hold with the promise of extra funds through the Fairtrade premium, which will help to build schools or health services, or provide water and sanitation.

As Chair of Fintea Growers Co-operative Union, Joseph represents the interests of five tea co-operatives in Kenya, which are Kokchaik, Ainamoi, Chepcheb, Kapkap and Chesetekaa. Joseph is also Chair of the Kokchaik co-operative.

In 2008, Joseph founded the Finlay Outgrowers Group as a farmer, which later became known as FinTea last year when he was elected Chair of the overseeing co-operative.

Fintea will manage the Fairtrade premiums generated by the sale of leaf tea, initially with Finlays but ultimately with whomever the farmers choose.

At the beginning of the project, the Co-operative College designed the training to help the farmers to establish their own co-operatives along with the Co-operative College of Kenya, which also delivered the training on the ground. The Co-operative Group co-funded the project and will buy tea and potentially other products from the producers.

The Group is also supporting the farmers to diversify the crops they farm, which will help to protect farmers from the uncertainties of the fluctuating tea market. Members of the co-operatives are receiving training on expanding their own kitchen gardens to provide the right balance of nutrients to their families. The excess from these can be sold to the local market to increase income.

Tea from these farmers will be processed in Finlays’ Kymulot and Chomogonday factories and will be marketed as 100 per cent smallholder tea under the Bondet and Masangi tea marks. The co-operatives have been trading in leaf tea with Finlays since November, 2011.

• To take part in a live question and answer session with Fairtrade producer Joseph from 12 noon on Wednesday February 29th, visit our special page to find out more.

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