How the changing climate threatens one of Kenya’s biggest exports – tea, and the millions of livelihoods which depend on it

BBC World Service

BBC World Service:  Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea. Rising temperatures and failing rainfall though could have a devastating effect on the industry. Julius Mbatia is a policy and advocacy officer for Power Shift Africa, a climate activist in Nairobi. Julius, tell us how serious this is. 

Julius Mbatia: Thank you very much for having me this morning. This is a serious challenge right now. I mean, you’re looking at the greatest exporter of tea, particularly also to the UK. And you’re looking at the reality of climate change, rising temperatures and erratic rainfall. We are looking at a situation where the country’s optimal conditions for tea production in the highlands will be affected, leading to a drop in production by 26.2% by 2050. And at the same time, you’re looking at medium level tea growing regions predicted to decrease their production by 39%. This will have serious consequences for the economy of Kenya.

BBC World Service: I mean, that’s pretty serious, isn’t it? So, um, we need to change and, and for many industries and environments around the world, we need to see a change when it comes to global warming. Can anything happen on the ground that would make a difference in Kenya right now?

Julius Mbatia:  Yes. There’s so much that can happen on the ground. But the reality of the matter is that governance needs to be strengthened. We need to put in place policy frameworks and institutions that actually get to look at the challenge at hand. And this is not just a Kenyan responsibility because we share a global climate. And the interconnectedness of this problem is that if we don’t produce tea Kenya, the UK colleagues will not have tea to take. So we have to reduce our emissions at a global level, but at the same time, provide financing to tea growing farmers and provide research and resources that allow them to look at the problem at the core, at the root, within clear governance structures that allow us to deliver solutions for this challenge.

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