When the Rainforest Alliance first launched a financial literacy training program in Kenya, the original intent was to provide smallholder farmers with basic record-keeping skills to reduce costs and raise profits. Once the first workshops began, however, our trainers noticed more than half the classes were filled with women—mostly tea pluckers, and family members of the farmers.
Mary Wanjik Kifur, a tea picker, explained that after the training, she began to confirm the weight with receipts or pay slips. "I saw the need for record keeping," she said of the financial literacy program and how it helped her keep track of her harvest.
Kifur was one of 3,000 people who participated in the Rainforest Alliance training programs, held in Kilalani, a region rich in coffee, and Mataara, where tea is the main crop. Farm owners and pickers alike filled the workshops throughout the year. They acquired ledger booklets and learned how to use them, assigning values to their harvest. They learned to balance expenses and revenues. They learned to record expenditures for tools, track hours for labor, and enter precise amounts for the weight of their tea or coffee. Most importantly, they learned where and how they could increase their earnings.
"Initially we invited farmers, but we soon extended the invitation to workers and family members too, since everyone who harvests tea or coffee can benefit from financial literacy skills," said Manel Modelo, a business trainer for the Rainforest Alliance. "And now these workers are using the booklet and understand it’s very important to record their labor." When farmers acquire the tools to boost their incomes and manage their businesses more efficiently, they are less likely to resort to options that harm the environment—like clearing more forest to increase their growing area.
Like all Rainforest Alliance training programs, this one is designed to be sustainable and easily replicated for maximum impact. Modelo and his team trained local "lead" farmers, who in turn trained more farmers. "If we make record keeping a culture, it means that all of the activities we give the farmers will continue with the farmer or without him," said Henry W. Mwangi, of our Kenya-based partner organization, Sustainable Management Services.