Chai ni Mali – the Value of Tea


We are all pretty familiar with the value of tea in our own lives (where indeed would polite society be without it?) But one of the aims of the Lorna Young Foundation is to support small tea farmers in developing countries to receive the true value of their crop.tea field WATCO, Tukuyu

One of the LYF’s most exciting, recent initiatives has been to develop ‘Farmer Radio’ – where we work with local smallholder organisations to produce radio programmes so that farmers can access crucial information about the particular crops they grow and to help support them to have objective and transparent information about the markets that they grow crops for. You can read more about our first Farmer Radio initiatives here. And, as always, with an LYF project, we’ve been keen to add value – so our Farmer Radio model not only provides information on crop quality and on markets, but also takes the opportunity to raise awareness about more sustainable farming practices, to improve food and nutrition and to raise awareness of HIV-Aids prevention.

The tea markets in East Africa are experiencing a slump due to an increased green leaf production; as a result, tea factories in Tanzania are struggling. Many smallholders do not fully understand the impact of this on prices, so it is now more important than ever to create clear information and communication channels between factories and growers.

Our Tanzanian farmer-radio project was created in response to these challenges. We work in Tanzinia with the RSTGA (Rungwe Smallholder Tea Growers Association), WATCO (Wakalima Tea Company) and TRIT (Tea Research Institute of Tanzania). The project was launched in March 2014 and, to date, has received training visits from LYF staff and local partners – including Joseph Macharia (our Kenyan Farmer Radio lead) and Jasmine Bakula (our DRC based lead.) Our excellent partner-advisors from Ringtons Tea Company, Waitrose and the Wood Foundation Africa have also supported project.

In order to replicate our successful approaches in Kenya and DRC, our team worked with two radio presenters from Tanzania’s ‘Kyela FM’ to produce training and content for 6 months’ of radio programmes. Farmer ‘listening’ groups were set up so that we could be provided with feedback on content, along with creating an SMS facility so that farmers could ‘text-in’ their questions for the show. The radio programme was named Chai ni Mali (the value of tea) and later on in 2015, Ian Agnew from the LYF undertook a follow-up visit in order to see how the project was progressing.

Some of the challenges facing the project have been the lack of transport available to the broadcasters for them to carry-out regular interviews from the farmers and more encouragement is now needed for the listeners to text in their questions to the radio station. However – the general outlook was extremely positive. Ian met with a group of Mpuguso village Committeefarmers who belong to the project’s ‘listening group’ at Mpuguso village; all were highly enthusiastic about the broadcasts and keen to provide us with new ideas. They appreciated the current level of technical detail available on growing tea during the broadcasts, but requested wider information on development and on growing other crops. It was also felt that more women farmers should be interviewed in order to encourage other women in the region to improve their crop cultivation and interest in farming.

RSTGA officesFollowing the success of the broadcasts, RSTGA have set up their own radio station ‘Chai FM’ which now broadcasts from a small studio at their offices in Tukuyu directly to 10,000 local smallholders but which also repeats the programmes and urges more farmers to provide feedback and content for future shows.

In our next blog post, we will share some exciting news about our new Farmer Radio project in Ghana!


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