3.6m trees and counting – tree planting programmes tackle climate risk for tea farmers and communities

24th September 2019

The Ethical Tea Partnership is working with tea communities in Malawi, Kenya and Rwanda on tree planting and tree nursery programmes to help combat deforestation and soil erosion.

To date, over 3.6m trees and tree seedlings have been planted through the programmes, with more planned in the future.

Trees provide one of the most effective defences against the worst impacts of climate-related flash flooding and soil erosion.

Credit: Andy Hall

Many tea communities suffer from deforestation which increases the negative impacts of climate change. To combat increasing deforestation, tree nursery programmes are established to help farmers grow trees that can be planted in local areas and train them to develop sustainable approaches to reforestation. If the trees seedlings grow successfully, they help to reduce CO2 and provide resources for construction and fuel.

In Malawi, which suffers from catastrophic levels of deforestation, trees are a vital resource for firewood, construction and for fruit production so there is constant demand. ETP programmes are supporting tea farmers to replenish the required supply and return the bare landscape to forest once more. Through the programmes we’re supporting farmers to plant and grow tree seedlings.

So far, from these seedlings, 60,000 new trees have been planted, with a further 180,000 expected to have been planted by 2020.
Credit: Andy Hall

The tree nurseries are being located in areas that will most benefit from reforestation, such as those that are vulnerable to erosion, severely deforested, have acute firewood challenges or where hydroelectricity infrastructure needs protection from siltation and landsides. Working in collaboration with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi, through Malawi Tea 2020 ETP has helped 650 tea farmers establish 22 tree nurseries.

Further support is provided through awareness-raising events which promote the importance of tree protection and engage community leaders and forestry officers to help plant seedlings in their communities.

Credit: Andy Hall

Cedrik Banda is Village Head in Sukamphesi, Malawi. He has seen the changes brought about by deforestation and a changing climate:

“We used to have trees. Now we have strong winds, soil erosion and late rains. By planting more trees, soil erosion and flash floods will end”.

He also knows how important a constant supply of wood is to the farmers and their families:

“The ETP programme helps people access firewood. It is not easy to find wood and if they have to buy it, it is expensive”.

The social benefits to the programme are clear to see too:

“I’m encouraged by this group’s commitment and the way they work together. This is development in action and I am inspired by their work. The village is already getting greener”.

Hear from Jones, Malawi

In Kenya, where tree cover dropped by 10% between 2001 and 2017 in tea growing regions, ETP programmes have helped tea farmers to plant over 3.5 million tree seedlings. As in Malawi, trees help prevent soil erosion and provide vital shade for tea plants. Some of the new trees are used as fuel, providing a direct financial benefit to the farmers who will have a ready supply of wood that they don’t need to buy.

There are around 650,000 small-scale tea farmers in Kenya who are already experiencing the effects of climate change such as rising temperatures, droughts, frosts, unpredictable weather patterns and changes in pests and diseases – all which threaten tea production. The ETP tree planting programme is a fundamental way of supporting the tea farmers and communities take a proactive role in mitigating these changes, and build resilience for the future.