Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES)

Recognising the interconnected needs of tea farmers, women, their communities, and the environment.

Piloting stewardship of nature as a sustainable solution for Malawian tea

The term ‘ecosystem service’ is used to describe an outcome of nature that can be beneficial for people – crops, protection from climate risks, spaces for life, activities that replenish natural resources, and more.

Paying people for the important work of maintaining these is an idea known as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES).

We are piloting a PES project to potentially achieve three things: to financially support tea farmers, to strengthen women’s equality, and to adapt to climate change.

  • 2022-Ongoing
  • Status: On-track

Project overview

Exploring the potential of payments for ecosystem services to boost incomes and address gender quality and environmental challenges at the same time.

Project partners

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s (FCDO) Work and Opportunities for Women (WOW) programme, Tata Consumer Products Ltd., and Ringtons Ltd.

While we intend to expand our approach in future years, we are starting this project by incentivising tea smallholders to reforest areas around their farms.

Doing this could increase their resilience to climate change, with the right trees protecting soil from weather damage and degradation, and giving tea crops shade to avoid scorching.

Diversifying by planting fruit crops like avocado and mango could boost farm incomes through sales at local markets.

And it also presents the opportunity to address women’s social standing in the community by involving them in household level businesses.

The project’s design is based on results from business case research we commissioned. Our findings suggest:

  • An agroforestry approach, using shade, boundary, and fruit trees on smallholder farms for best outcomes.
  • Using Village Savings and Loans Associations to develop business management training suitable for families.
  • Weaving gender equality actions into every aspect of the project’s objectives.

This initiative is piloting Rabobank’s ACORN model, working with the two largest tea smallholder associations, covering approximately 21,000 farmers in Mulanje and Thyolo districts.

So far, the project has:

  • Completed business case research demonstrating the financial benefits of different tree planting scenarios, and recommendations on effective gender equity work.
  • Secured an agreement from Rabobank to proceed with a pilot.
  • Successfully applied to FCDO for an additional year of support, including recruitment of two community mobilisers to pilot training packages for farmers.

Presented the programme to district government, encouraging their support with extension services (technical aid to farmers).