In Rwanda, smallholder farmers often have very small plots and struggle to make a living from tea. To help, I’m coordinating an ETP project, which is funded by Taylors of Harrogate, IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and two producers that provides smallholder farmers with training on good practice farming that will hopefully lead to better quality tea and higher yields, as well as looking at ways to diversify incomes.

As the project coordinator, I’ve been working closely with the two producers on the ground and their smallholder farm cooperatives. Jointly, we organised meetings to sensitise and mobilise tea farmers to Farmer Field School (FFS) activities.

Rwandan Tea FarmersThese meetings were held in areas selected by the tea cooperatives. Sites were chosen to ensure that the FFSs were central to lots of farmers in order to increase participation. Following the initial meetings 218 tea farmers (151 men and 67 women) enrolled in 6 FFS, which are now up and running. These farmers are showing great enthusiasm for the FFS activities and are eagerly learning about good practice farming for tea and other crops (vegetables and horticulture) for income diversification.

Besides farming, the FFS curriculum includes other topics such as climate change and adaptation measures, business skills development, and record keeping. The FFS curriculum is taught for one year and upon graduation the farmers will hopefully be much better placed to earn a sustainable living from their plots. From a personal perspective it’s great seeing things develop so quickly. I’m looking forward to reporting back as the year progresses!