Making Water Safe for Tea Workers in Burundi

Water: it’s something you don’t think much about unless you don’t have enough of it. In Burundi—one of the world’s five poorest countries—the lack of potable water is a major factor in widespread illness and even death.

The Rainforest Alliance is working with the Ijenda and Rwegura tea factories in northwest Burundi to improve water, sanitation and hygiene standards for its 25,000 smallholder tea farmers. The WASH protocols, as they are known, are a standard component of Rainforest Alliance training, as well as worker safety protections, quality improvements, and strategies to increase revenues.

Tea workers in Burundi

These tea workers in Burundi now have access to safe drinking water on the job

Photo credit: Rémy Nsengiyumva, 2014

“Before the Rainforest Alliance program,” says tea plucker Jean-Claude Havyrinfura, “We were drinking unsafe water located more than one kilometer away. Now, each tea block has its own source.”

For years, the two factories used to release waste water from tea processing directly into nearby rivers. After the Rainforest Alliance training, a lagoon filtration system filters solid waste out before the water flows back into local streams and rivers. Another critically important improvement in a country with such poor water access: in both work and housing areas, the toilets and washroom facilities have been rehabilitated, and workers now have access to safe drinking water.

"The trees, cleanness, agrochemicals and rainwater management—everything has improved. We are feeling better."

Madaleine Nyandwi, regional tea farm owner

“When you visit a Rainforest Alliance Certified farmer, you directly see the difference,” says Madaleine Nyandwi, who owns a tea farm near Kibira National Park, a biodiversity hotspot. “The trees, cleanness, agrochemicals and rainwater management—everything has improved. We are feeling better.”

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