Sikobihora Marie Françoise is one of hundreds of thousands of smallholder tea farmers around the world who have learned to produce a greener cup of tea using responsible farming methods promoted by the Rainforest Alliance.
Smallholders like Marie Françoise provide the bulk of this ubiquitous commodity—the second-most consumed beverage in the world after water—but challenges like soil erosion and widespread reliance on dangerous pesticides make tea farming a difficult way of life. In addition, many tea-growing regions are undergoing changes in weather patterns caused by climate change, stressing tea bushes and increasing the likelihood of reduced yields and incomes.
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms use methods that protect the health of farmers, their livelihoods, their land and the surrounding waterways. Through our training and certification programs, we are promoting farming techniques designed to protect the land for future generations.
"In the training from the Rainforest Alliance, they told us to plant trees. I have started, bit by bit, and am planting trees progressively."Sikobihora Marie Françoise
The Rainforest Alliance promotes sustainable farming methods that lead to increased profits and better working conditions. In order to earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified ™ seal, tea farms must undergo annual audits against a rigorous standard with detailed environmental, economic, and social criteria that work together to promote our holistic vision of sustainability.
Protecting Land and Waterways
When they were first established decades ago, tea farms replaced tropical forests with a monoculture crop, thereby destroying rich native biodiversity. In addition, runoff from pesticides, untreated wastewater and soil erosion tax the land on which tea is grown. On Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, dangerous and banned pesticides are phased out and alternatives (such as manual weeding) are promoted; farmers plant vegetative barriers to capture agrochemical run-off and plant grasses on steep banks to prevent erosion; wastewater is treated. The Sustainable Agriculture Network standards provide farmers with these and other concrete tools to reverse environmental degradation and restore the health of the soil.
Although the demand for tea is enormous, low yields, high input costs and gaps in production make it a struggle for smallholder tea farmers to earn decent incomes. The methods farmers learn through Rainforest Alliance training programs—such as improved plucking and pruning techniques, “in-filling” (planting densely) and soil rejuvenation across the whole farm—improve yields and tea quality. By implementing these best practices, tea farmers can look to a brighter future, with better livelihoods.