January, 2023

Developing partnerships to address poor diets in tea communities

Partnerships form the backbone of the Healthy Diets for Tea Communities Programme, a joint initiative of ETP and GAIN

Together with our members and key strategic partners, ETP is working to address the deep-rooted issues facing tea workers and farmers. Building partnerships enables us to draw upon a wider net of knowledge, expertise, and resources to create long lasting, sustainable change in tea communities.

Partnerships form the backbone of the Healthy Diets for Tea Communities Programme, a joint initiative of ETP and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) culminating in 2023. The programme is supported by funding from ETP Members, and aims to address poor nutrition in tea supply chains in Assam (India), Kenya, and Malawi.

Poor diets are the leading cause of global ill health and a driver of poor nutrition, with tea workers and farmers often suffering from high undernutrition rates because their diets, which consist largely of staple foods such as rice, bread, maize and wheat, are often not varied and balanced. The Healthy Diets for Tea Communities Programme aims to address this challenge by focusing on increasing demand for and access to nutritious foods and improving the enabling environment by promoting the importance of investing in workforce nutrition programmes to businesses and governments.

Partnership building in Kenya with foundations and government agencies

In Kenya, work is implemented on the ground in partnership with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Foundation, which coordinates activity implementation with farmers and workers with technical support from both ETP and GAIN. The foundation supports initiatives geared towards improving the livelihoods of smallholder tea farmers and workers. Weekly virtual meetings between the partners in Kenya enable all parties to stay up to date on activity progress, as well as plan monitoring visits to estates. Each member of the partnership is also responsible for different aspects of programme management, with GAIN leading on most monitoring and data management, and ETP supporting KTDA Foundation so that activities implemented are clearly linked to outputs and reported accurately. This allows for a stronger approach to programme implementation, and therefore a greater impact on the ground.

Work is implemented within four KTDA affiliated factories in Kericho County, which are fully owned by smallholder tea farmers.

Local administrators, tea buying centre committees, public health officials, and transport service providers all also provide support to the partnership and are key to the success of the Programme.

At a country level, the Programme has a working partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture to coordinate certain outputs such as training farmers on kitchen gardening and good agricultural practices. A partnership with the nutrition department of the Ministry of Health (MoH) has also been formed to enhance awareness on nutritious foods and their preparation. The MoH has offered the help of Community Health Volunteers to engage communities and assist in areas such as cooking demonstrations and training vendors on nutrition.

Partnership Building in Malawi between Government Extension Services and Tea Farmers

In Malawi, the Healthy Diets for Tea Communities Programme also works in partnership with both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health to provide extension services, technical support, and capacity building initiatives for farmers. Through extension workers and Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), the two sectors work directly with tea farmers to monitor field activities, provide technical expertise, conduct training workshops, and provide guidance and advise to farmers, in addition to support for ETP organised activities such as open days.

“Tea farmers are not only growing tea but also other food crops, fruits, and livestock. Our role as extension workers is to assist these farmers to adopt better methods of farming to increase production. Currently we are training them on how they can graft fruit trees, banana production, and bee keeping. We are promoting development of kitchen gardens and growing of orange fleshed sweet potatoes.”

This partnership enables ETP to tap into each sector’s expertise and build capacity by equipping farmers and tea workers with the skills and knowledge required to address the challenge of poor nutrition in their communities. Involving the two government sectors in the Programme work has also enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of implementation, improved accessibility and reach of extension services to the tea farmers and workers, and in turn, helps ensure the sustainability of the Programme.

Partners in the Healthy Diets for Tea Communities Programme

The Programme is implemented on the ground by GAIN, the Ethical Tea Partnership, working with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) in Kenya, the Tea Farmers Associations in Malawi, Dharma life, Ecociate, and the Indian Tea Association in India. It is co-funded by Unilever, Taylors of Harrogate, the Republic of Tea, Bigelow, Reginald Ames, JDE, Wollenhaupt, and Ringtons. These brands want to support tea communities through a range of sustainability initiatives and are invested in improving the lives of the people who grow and produce tea.

Click here to learn more about our Healthy Diets for Tea Communities Programme, and read more about ETP’s Strategy2030 here.