The participants of the 10-day study tour to Kenya arrived at the Nairobi airport on 31st August. The excitement was almost contagious during the long drive to the hotel, with participants chatting about what they would learn and what would be relevant to their work at home as they looked out the windows at passing tea farms.

The idea of a study tour to Kenya germinated in a workshop held in November 2012 titled “An Industry In Transition (Sri Lanka)”, which was jointly organized by CARE International, The Ethical Tea Partnership, and World University Service of Canada (WUSC).

Sri Lankan Tour PartyThe 20 participants selected for the tour represent a cross section of stakeholders related to the tea industry: Regional Plantation Company CEOs, Tea Estate Managers, Trade Unionists, and representatives of INGOs. All are close partners of WUSC's Government of Canada funded Plantations Communities Project II. Following the tour the participants will be responsible for implementing best practices they learn from their Kenyan counterparts.

A key goal of the trip is to learn about best practices and Kenya's experiences of the outgrower production model, farmer training, and smallholder cooperative support. Ultimately this will help the Sri Lankan sector to address issues such as worker shortages, increasing costs of production, and high levels of youth unemployment.

The tour itinerary includes a wide range of activities. Participants will visit tea plantations, meet with farmers, and hold discussions with the Kenyan Tea Board and the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya. The Ethical Tea Partnership's credibility and recognition in both Kenya and Sri Lanka allowed easy access that would have otherwise been difficult to obtain.

The learning program began in August when participants took part in a one-day preparatory workshop during which they identified individual learning goals and challenges they wished to overcome.

Among the learning goals and strategies identified by the participants were out-grower models, technology, innovative practices, industrial relations, social performance measurement, gender and welfare. Labor shortage, low productivity and high costs, labor relations and social welfare were raised as key challenges.

Participants will reflect on these goals throughout the tour, and see many best practice approaches first hand which we’ll share with you via the blog posts on the WUSC and ETP websites. Upon return to Sri Lanka, all the participants will actively promote their learning and share experiences within their respective organizations and with other stakeholders across various forums. We look forward to sharing more as the week progresses.