Environment & Poverty Times
Rael Cheket Limo plucks leaves on the Unilever Tea Kenya Kericho Estate, a job she has held since 2004. Caroline Irby.
A Unilever Tea Kenya Kericho Estate employee holds a handful of plucked tea leaves. Caroline Irby. Unilever Tea Kenya redefines green tea By Dresden Joswig
Employing more than three million men and women and providing for millions more, the tea industry is of paramount importance to the well-being of Kenya and its people. To encourage an environmen- tally responsible and economically viable industry, Unilever – the world’s largest tea company – is working with the Rainforest Alliance to improve the way its estates in Kenya, and elsewhere, manage their land. Rainforest Alliance Certified™ since 2007, the Unilever Tea Kenya Kericho Estate was the world’s first tea farm to earn the distinc- tion. With the integration of sustainable land management techniques, the estate is using fewer resources and proving to be a better neighbour to people and wildlife.
The sprawling Unilever Tea Kenya Keri- cho Estate, which stretches across 14,000 hectares, complies with the rigorous social, environmental and economic standards required by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (a consortium of leading con- servation groups) for Rainforest Alliance
certification. Unilever Tea Kenya has made a profound commitment to social, environ- mental and fiscal responsibility, working independently on sustainability initiatives for more than a decade.
factory water effluent so that it does not pollute the surrounding environment. In addition, workers use micro-irrigation systems, which require less water than many other methods of irrigation and help to minimize soil erosion.
The benefits of employing sustainable agriculture techniques – and providing third-party verification of responsible management – extend well beyond environ- mental improvements. Rainforest Alliance certification safeguards benefits like access to schools, health care facilities and housing on the Unilever Tea Kenya Kericho Estate. “We’re very happy at the moment,” says picker Rael Cheket Limo. Though she is a casual worker, Limo still qualifies for free company housing with running water and a cement floor, and her children are able to attend the estate-subsidized school.
Its Kericho estate has found outlets for sell- ing recyclable material (an additional source of income) and has begun separating its solid waste. To improve efficiency, the estate has upgraded its tea factory furnaces, also effectively reducing its use of firewood and energy. Employees have been taught to treat
Experience on the estate and other Rainforest Alliance Certified farms tells us that the use of sustainable management techniques is also good for business, improving productivity and often reducing costs on farms. Since it began embracing sustainable agriculture, the
Unilever Tea Kenya Kericho Estate has seen an increase in crop yield. Other Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have achieved com- parable results. For example, the Colombian Coffee Federation found that farmers who had earned Rainforest Alliance certification saw their productivity increase by 20%. Similarly, Chiquita’s company-owned farms reduced costs by 12% and increased yield by 27% after becoming Rainforest Alliance Certi- fied. Money netted from these developments trickles down to employees by providing for better housing, healthcare and education.
Giving farmers and producers the tools and techniques to manage their operations while conserving resources, and providing the in- centive to do so, are all key to sustainability and invaluable for alleviating poverty and im- proving quality of life. Unilever Tea Kenya’s Kericho Estate is one of the thousands of farms working with the Rainforest Alliance that has seen how sustainable farming can benefit people, wildlife and the planet.
About the author: Dresden Joswig works for Rainforest Alliance.
Backwashing of open wells in Kerala By Dr. KC Bellarmine
Accessing rain as a clean and cheap source of water has been in vogue for generations, especially amongst the poor. In Kerala a southern state in the Indian subcontinent, communities are engaging in a very simple yet efficient and economical method of rainwater harvesting.
The process of backwashing involves collect- ing rainwater from rooftops using a gutter or other suitable receptacles and feeding it directly to the open wells located within the premises of the household. Provision is made for a filtering device in places where there is excessive debris such as leaves, etc. The first showers are normally left to wash off the rooftops and channels; subsequent rainwater is harvested in full.
Individual households that adopt the practice get direct and almost immediate benefit by way of a rejuvenated well in their backyard. The community benefits in that it has a replenished and sustainable water table in the area. Poor people who do not own wells also benefit indirectly from the practice as a recharged well in
the neighbourhood is normally shared by the community.
Prior to the project, the wells were provid- ing 5% of drinking/cooking water, 85% of cleaning water and 15% of bathing water. A year later, the rejuvenated wells were able to provide 35% of drinking/cooking water, 95% of cleaning water and 100% of bathing water. The restoration of the well systems also meant reduced dependence on outside water.
The practice has been proven effective in Kerala, with huge potential for upscaling. Assuming a modest rainwater collection per household of 100,000 litres a year, an average initial investment Rs.1,000 ($20) and a life expectancy of 5 years, the cost of backwashing, including marginal maintenance expenses, works out to less than Rs.3 ($0.06) per thousand litres of harvested water.
About the author: K.C.Bellarmine, Ph.D. in fishing technology. He is currently with ICICI Lombard GIC Limited. The article is written in his personal capacity.
Plastic sheet used over a thatched roof to collect rain water. Planet Kerala.
Masonry work to collect rain water on a tiled roof. Planet Kerala.
PVC structure with elevated well wall to prevent overflow. KC Bellarmine.
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