Working with ActionAid to empower tea communities across Kenya

Together, we will work to improve the working environment for tea farmers and tea workers, including the most marginalised, women and children.

Our partnership

The Ethical Tea Partnership is partnering with ActionAid, Taylors of Harrogate and Lavazza Professional to empower tea farming communities in Kenya. Together, we will work to improve the working environment for tea farmers and tea workers, including the most marginalised, women and children.

The three-year collaboration (Jan 2022 – Dec 2024) will empower smallholder farmers and informal workers in three tea growing communities in Kenya.

“I think what ActionAid taught us at the training will help us” – Durah

Together with ActionAid, we will consult farmers and workers to understand the issues they face and the impact of industry practices on their lives.

We will also work directly with the Kenyan Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and other stakeholders to improve policies and working practices in the industry.

The challenge

Approximately 60% of tea in Kenya is produced on small-scale family farms.

Smallholder farmers and informal workers play a vital role in tea supply chains. But the informal nature of their employment means they are more likely to face low incomes, poor working conditions, and lack access to essential public services like clean water, safe housing, healthcare, and education.

Women smallholder farmers and informal workers make up the majority of Kenya’s tea workforce, and are affected disproportionately.

Recently commissioned research by ETP and our partners also found that rates of violence against women in the smallholder tea sector in Kenya are high. Only weak mechanisms are in place to prevent violence and to respond when it does occur.

Our aims

In partnership, our work in Kenya will:

Build an environment where human rights are upheld, protected, and respected.

  • Work to put better policies in place across the tea sector to ensure farmers earn fair pay and conditions.
  • Support farmers and workers to become champions to advocate for their rights.
  • Establish a platform for dialogue with key industry and government stakeholders so that farmers and workers can raise issues and concerns and plan together to make improvements.

Support women as they work to claim their right to freedom from violence.

  • Support the formation of women’s groups to amplify women’s voices and to support women to challenge gender norms.
  • Challenge gender-based violence and support survivors of violence to access essential services and legal aid.
  • Establish a platform for dialogue with local government to advance women’s land rights, which are essential for raising women’s status.
  • Train tea industry management to improve working practices and tackle gender-based violence.

Improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and informal workers.

  • Support smallholder farmers and informal workers to diversify their incomes through access to entrepreneurship training and finance.

Improve access to essential public services for tea workers and their families, including water, housing, health care and education.

  • Support Groups with training and skills so that they can hold local governments accountable for their commitments.

Meet Durah

Durah [name changed to protect her identity], 39, works as a tea farm supervisor and owns a small piece of land that produces around 200kg of tea a month.

She says that women working as tea pickers face high levels of violence, exacerbated by the conditions of poverty they are living in. Durah also told us about the lack of effective reporting and support mechanisms in place for survivors.

“I think what ActionAid taught us at the training will help us, because we raised our issues and it was good. If women were organized into groups and given seed money, after some formal training it may help them, especially the single mothers.”

Our impact so far


Since starting in January 2022, the partnership has already exceeded its plans. So far we have:

  • Established 49 Solidarity Groups for smallholder farmers and informal workers in three communities.
  • Provided these groups with training on women’s rights and the responsibility of local government to provide essential public services, including water, healthcare and education that meet the needs of women and girls.
  • Trained 1,571 Rights Champions – 80% of whom are women – to help others learn about and claim their rights.


Community organising

We have also supported women to:

  • Form three women’s networks, one in each community.

Five women are elected per community to champion women and girls’ rights to live free from violence.

  • Begin mapping public services, identifying gaps and providing women with guided access to support services.

They will share what they have learned with other women in the second and third years of the project, and outline plans for the changes they want to see in their communities.

  • Participate in their local county planning processes.

In two project communities, Olenguruone and Ngere, 30 community members have successfully secured local government funding to rehabilitate a road and build two new classrooms in two schools.



The project has also completed reviews of:

  • National and county level policies to protect women from violence.
  • International, national, county and collection centre level policies related to labour and worker’s rights

These reviews will be turned into communications tools for training smallholder farmers, informal workers, and key stakeholders of tea-growing communities. The project will also work to address policy violations and strengthen policies where needed.


Find out more

Learn more about ActionAid’s work with women and girls.

Discover other initiatives ETP runs in Kenya.

Read our Strategy2030 and our mission to globally better the lives of tea communities.

All images: Rehema Baya / Africa Film Network / ActionAid