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Thousands of Farmers in Kenya are First Smallholder Tea Growers to Receive Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Group Certification

December 2, 2009

Just over 12,500 smallholder tea farmers have become the first-ever group to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification, announced the international conservation organization today. The group certification is held by Momul Tea Factory Company Ltd., which is part of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and has its green leaf tea supplied by the farmers through a network of collection centers.

Until now, the Rainforest Alliance's work in Kenya focused on large tea plantations. By developing an efficient yet rigorous group certification process, the organization has been able to reach a vast amount of smallholder farmers -- each covering approximately half an acre -- and bring the environmental, social and economic benefits of Rainforest Alliance certification to this group.

Speaking at the certification presentation, Marc Monsarrat, Rainforest Alliance manager for East Africa and South Asia said: "This is the largest single group certified by our certification system. This is hugely significant for Kenya's tea industry. This certification means that these farmers will have greater market access and in many cases, more productive land."

Each of the 12,511 group members has met all of the strict standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification on their small yet carefully managed plots of land. Each of the farms has had to consider and implement ecosystem conservation, worker rights and safety, wildlife protection, water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing and legal wages and contracts for workers.

Tea Plants

Despite the size and uniqueness of this certification, the same strict and diligent process was used to ensure SAN certification standards were met. The farmers were introduced to the SAN standards through a combination of farmer field schools and intensive training and worked meticulously to make the changes necessary to bring their farms into compliance, often going above and beyond the demands of most certification systems.

One of the most challenging certification requirements is for the farmers to ensure that they are properly protected when using agrochemicals on their farms, even if these are not applied to the tea. By setting up a micro-finance institution called Greenland Fedher, the KTDA was able to provide financing for every farmer to acquire personal protective equipment at low interest rates. Greenland Fedher will continue to provide access to prefinance to farmers for further farm investments.

Receiving the Rainforest Alliance Certified certificate, Alfrick Sang, Momul Factory's Field Services Coordinator said: "We are so happy today. Certification has already brought benefits to the farmers by ensuring they are properly protected. In the future, we will also have the edge over other farmers in the market, as we are the first to obtain this certification."

Momul Factory processes the green leaf, supplied by the farmers, into black tea, ready for export, blending and packing. The factory is part of KTDA, which brings together around 530,000 smallholders, who own about a half-acre of tea each. Kenya produces around 320,000 tons of tea and is the world's largest exporter. The KTDA alone produces 60 percent of the country's tea.

Though newly certified, the factory already has a buyer lined up: Unilever has committed to sourcing all of its tea sold in tea bags from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms by 2015.

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