I feel now is a good time to update you about the smallholder project we’re implementing with IDH, the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative, because I can see that our efforts are really beginning to make a difference to some of the tea farmers.

For those that aren’t familiar with the project we’re working with 3 smallholder groups, around 1,000 smallholder tea farmers, to help them improve their farming practices, raise awareness about the importance of good social and environmental practices, and for some giving them access to new tea bushes and microfinance.

One of the worst droughts experienced

Before I talk about our achievements I think it best I set the scene. At one of our regular meetings between the project team and the smallholder farmers, one tea farmer (Pak Haji Enduh in Pengalengan, West Java, Indonesia) commented, “In all my life as a tea farmer, this year is the worst drought I have experienced. The extreme heat has caused some of my tea bushes to die, and because they need regular sunlight and water, we farmers have had very little leaf to sell.”

Being a farmer requires a lot of hard work and tenacity. From thinking of ways to tackle pests and disease that attack their plants, to consistently producing good quality green leaf to sell. It’s now clear that monsoon climate changes are adding to their woes.

Pak RochmatGood practice farming and practical measures

Pak Haji Rochmat is a farmer with a one-hectare plot and he has a different story to tell. He is also participating in the project and his group is managed by Pak Wawan. The group also works closely with an agronomist from the Indonesian Research of Tea Institute and Chinchona (RITC) who regularly gives practical tips on good practice farming and ways to adapt to climate change.
Pak Rochmat comments, “ My smallholder group leader keeps us updated about the increases in temperature and listens to information on weather forecasts. We’ve also prepared for drought by buying a power sprayer that the group shares. But the most important thing is the correct treatment of the tea bushes, which ultimately leads to better productivity even during times of drought.”

Increasing resilience to climate change

What’s really satisfying is that the project originally set out to improve tea-farming practices and help smallholders access ‘certified markets’, thereby improving their livelihoods. However when you listen to Pak Rochmat and his group it’s clear that the good farming methods they’re utilising is making them more resilient to extreme weather conditions. And this has all been achieved in a relatively short space of time!

The challenge now for the ETP and the project team is to ensure that these practical steps filter down to all the smallholders in the project. I also would like to explore the feasibility of scaling up the project to other regions in Indonesia and beyond. I’ve provided 5 tips from RITC below as a starting point. Until next time.

TIPS FROM Indonesian Research of Tea and Chinchona (RITC)

  1. Be prepared and anticipate for the drought. Keep the bushes free from pests and diseases
  2. Take a note of weather forecasts
  3. Establish patterns for power spraying either for watering the bushes, application of foliar fertilizer etc
  4. Contact RITC for climate resistant tea clones and implementation
  5. Practice Good Agricultural Practice including application of organic fertilizersMaintain shade trees and mulches