Wakulima Tea Company (WTC) grows, processes, and sells tea for local and export markets, procuring 85% of its green leaf tea from 12,000 members of a smallholder outgrowers association (RTGSA).
WTC’s commitment to quality and good manufacturing practices is evident by its ISO and other global certifications, and it makes ongoing investments in its suppliers, who rely on tea as a stable source of year-round income. From extension services to access to credit, WTC is working with smallholder tea farmers to breathe life into a decades-long growing tradition.
Falling world tea prices, aging producers, and poor plantation management have all contributed to declining tea yields and financial challenges for WTC. Tea now accounts for a smaller share of farmers’ incomes, who are shifting to higher value crops like avocado. However, the regular cash flow and profit sharing in WTC for registered farmers – as well as the cost of converting the land to other crops and an emotional attachment to the tea plantations – keep farmers producing. For WTC, higher volumes of quality tea are needed to protect the company from future price fluctuations,and investments are needed to boost tea yields, quality, and labour productivity.
In partnership with SDU, WTC is investing $335,000 to improve extension services for 12,000 smallholder farmers. Ten new field officers each establish three demonstration plots each year, in order to promote better farming practices and the use of inputs and technologies such as fertilisers, pesticides, and mechanised harvesters. Access to credit for yield-enhancing inputs like fertilisers and pesticides is also a priority, and WTC has had in-depth discussions with Equity Bank and Opportunity International.