Kenyan Tea Farmer Reflects on Certification, Family, and the Future

Simon and Esther Langat are a husband and wife team whose farm in Kenya is part of the Momul tea factory agricultural cooperative, the first smallholder group to undergo Rainforest Alliance certification back in 2009. Simon attended a Rainforest Alliance farmer field school, where he learned best management practices for sustainable tea farming.

Simon and Esther own a two-acre farm where they have made their home with their three children. With the help of three local farm workers, they grow tea and napier grass, raise three zero-grazing cows and a few dairy goats, and cultivate a kitchen garden. They also have a small woodlot, and recently Simon constructed a bio-gas unit that breaks down organic matter and converts it to fuel.

Q: How long has your family had the farm?

A: I have had this farm for 28 years, since 1986.

Q: What does the farm mean to your family?

A: This farm is our life. We built a house for shelter, plant vegetables for food, and milk the dairy cows for consumption and sales. The bio-gas unit generates renewable fuel that we use for cooking. The tea is our main source of income, helping us pay school fees and fund further development of the farm. The farm also provides employment to the three workers we hire to pluck tea leaves.

The Langat family

Simion and Esther Langat 

Photo credit: Caroline Irby

Q: How does your family get involved on the farm?

A: I manage the farm with my wife. I also teach at the local school, but my wife is fully engaged at the farm. The farm is our occupation, food source, and source of income. During the holidays, our children, who are in college, also participate in farm activities.

Q: Why did you decide to become Rainforest Alliance Certified?

A: I was interested in Rainforest Alliance certification because of its emphasis on environmental conservation, water harvesting, worker welfare, and proper waste management.

Q: How has certification made a difference for your farm and your family?

A: At the Rainforest Alliance farmer field school, we learned to decrease our plucking intervals, and consequently my yield has increased substantially — from 5,000 kg to 10,334 kgs! The Rainforest Alliance also taught us how to conserve water, and so I bought a tank for harvesting rainwater. In addition, I planted indigenous trees around the farm and bought personal protective equipment for my pluckers.

I also learned about the importance of record keeping; now I always record my daily green leaf harvest, which is really encouraging me to improve. The Rainforest Alliance has also enabled me to safely manage the different types of wastes generated at the farm. We use the bio-gas for cooking, so there is minimal need to cut trees for firewood. We also use cow dung as fertilizer for the napier grass and vegetables.

Q: What are your hopes for the future for your farm and your family?

A: In the future, I plan to construct a poultry unit to keep some chickens for additional income as well as a greenhouse. I also intend to use drip irrigation for horticulture in order to diversify the farm income. Our neighbors have followed our lead and are now applying some of the best management practices at their own farms. Ultimately, I hope to be a role model for environmental conservation in my community.

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