This report presents observations from a research study commissioned by Rainforest Alliance (RA) looking at working and living conditions for workers and their families across certified tea estates and small grower groups in Kenya. While remaining an important origin for tea, the Kenyan tea industry is currently experiencing difficult times. Low market prices for black tea products, combined with rising costs of production, threaten the solvency of farming households, directly affecting the livelihoods of the nearly 5 million people in Kenya who depend on tea for employment or income. In addition, unpredictable harvests linked to climate change and extreme weather are causing unpredictability and, at times, reduced yields, further adding to the risks that farmers bear.
RA commissioned this study to help it better understand how it can support positive change for the Kenyan tea industry in its time of transition. RA appointed Ergon Associates (and our Kenyan partner, Locals & Associates) to undertake field research examining working and living conditions for workers and their families. The research was mainly qualitative, with a primary data gathering component based on engagement with producers and workers at 12 certificate holders (CHs) in Kenya between December 2020 and December 2021. The core objective was to gather information on current issues facing the industry and its workforce and identify challenges in transitioning to the 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard (2020 Standard) across certain thematic social and sectoral issues. These key issues were: the transition to mechanised harvesting; employment terms and conditions (including contracts, working hours and overtime); wage levels and payment practices; women, discrimination and gender-based violence and harassment; occupational health and safety (OHS); housing and living conditions; operational grievance mechanisms (OGMs) and remedy.
You can read RA’s summary response here.