UK has unique chance to save Kenyan tea farmers

UK has unique chance to save Kenyan tea farmers

The Nation by Power Shift Africa Director Mohamed Adow

Under colonial rule many Kenyans were evicted from their lands to make room for tea plantations, many of which are still owned by multinational corporations.  The tea bond between Kenya and the UK continues today.

Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and the UK and Ireland are the largest drinkers of it, per capita. More than half the tea drunk in the UK is grown in Kenya.  However this relationship, and the fate of one of Kenya’s major industries, is under threat because of the climate crisis.

Here in Kenya we are rightly proud of our black tea.  It’s the best in the world. For many years we’ve had the perfect growing conditions for it. Tropical, red volcanic soils and long, sunny days. The tea bushes have grown nicely in our mountainous regions, above 2000m, at temperatures of 16C to 29C and with stable rainfall.

But a new report from Christian Aid shows that climate change is forecast to see 26% of Kenya’s optimal tea growing areas lost by 2050.  In the same 30 year span our medium tea growing regions are to be slashed by 39% due rising temperatures, erratic rainfall and increased droughts.   With the tea industry employing three million people this poses a devastating threat to our economy.  The situation is so perilous that even some of the world’s biggest tea makers, Unilever and Tata, have raised the climate alarm about the fate of Kenyan tea farmers.

The tragedy is that Kenyans have not caused this climate crisis from which we suffer.  Climate change is yet another relationship which binds us to the UK.  As the first country to industrialise and a major historic emitter of carbon dioxide, the UK has helped create the climate crisis, while we Kenyans suffer the brunt of it.

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