A myth ties the origins of tea to an errant gust of wind that blew tea leaves into a Chinese emperor’s hot water more than 4,700 years ago. Ever since, tea is one of the most commonly consumed beverage.
The Kayonza Growers Tea Factory is a cooperative situated in Kanungu District, 25kms away from Bwindi National park, a rainforest in the south western part of Uganda. The factory is fully owned by over 5,000 small scale shareholders who acquire shares through monthly deductions from their pay for green leaf delivered to the factory.
Over 90% of the Kayonza community members are dependent on locally-sourced wood for energy, leading to high deforestation rates. According to the UNDP, the Kayonza community is not only facing deforestation, but also prolonged drought, wetland encroachment, soil degradation and water shortages due to increasing effects of climate change.
Unlike many agricultural products, tea bushes are consistently planted for 60 years so it’s the same bush that is being plucked every year instead of a re-planted crop. Tea is therefore more responsive to the climate rather than the weather. Studies on the impact of climate change have shown that an average temperatures rise by 2.3 degrees celsius by 2050 could potentially wipe out Uganda’s most profitable tea producing areas, with severe losses in productivity already apparent by 2020.
Small scale tea farmers, such as the Kayonza farmers, are even more vulnerable to climate change impacts because of limited options and resources available for adaptation. The result has been low tea production, food scarcity and decline in household revenues.
The Kayonza factory operations are overseen by a General Manager, assisted by five department heads. The company manufactures Black teas with production of up to 3,000 tones annually. Primary grades make about 90% and Secondary grades make 10% of the total production. High quality products are essential for export revenues and overall financial performance.
A worker shovels tea onto an electricity run mill at Kayonza tea factory in Kanungu
At the Factory level, weather variability can have very negative effect on the business operations and economics through:
- Higher susceptibility of supply chain disruptions, high inventory and stock outs due to higher frequency of extreme weather events
- Higher costs for prevention activities to mitigate the effects
- Higher prices for insurance
- High equipment cost to make certain equipment to prevent floods, or construction of water retention infrastructure such as dams.
Kayonza and its distributor partner (Cafedirect PLC) have developed a climate change adaptation strategy to counter the effects of climate change by implementing innovative agricultural and management practices. According to the UNDP, “the initiative has worked to ensure that at least 70 percent of the population is involved in a landscape-scale, community-led climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy that addresses energy efficiency, food and income security and natural resource management.”
Overall the farmers of the Kayonza Tea Factory will be trained to implement climate change adaptation measures along four areas of strategy:
- Management of pest and diseases: The strategy will focus on early planting, use of resistant varieties, early detection and control techniques and research on new diseases.
- Food security: Efforts to increase food production will be sought by adopting better farming methods in crop and tea farming systems. Outside of tea production, the farmers will plant new varieties of crops and food and make better use of organic and inorganic fertilizers.
- Family Planning: Programs for farmers will be conducted on family planning using radio programs and farmer’s trainings to combat food scarcity and poverty
- Nature Conservation: The strategy will aim at planting of approximately 5000 trees in degraded areas, implementing energy saving technologies at farm level and protect swamps and wetlands. Currently, only about 30% of tea estate are planted with trees but by the end of the project, all estate boundaries will be planted.
In addition to the actions the Company is currently undertaking, further steps can be taken to:
- Increase the labor force to include a higher number of factory workers in charge of fetching water. Given the low labor cost, this could increase yields at lower
- Audit the manufacturing facilities and processes to implement energy efficient actions that have short payback time. For instance, replacing incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes (LEDs) can reduce energy consumption. Furthermore, the factory could ensure that maintenance is frequent enough to prevent efficiency losses and reduce heat losses or gains.
- Increase labor efficiency and tea plants productivity by training the farmers to adopt good agricultural practices. For instance, in a tea farm in Kenya, farmers have been taught to leave tea prunings at the site, to enhance soil fertility and water retention. This has proven to improve tea yields. (793 words)
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