Celestine, a farmer from Mombasa County, Kenya.

Ethical Tea Partnership

Kenya and tea: the facts   

Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of tea, and the third-largest producer of black tea in the world, behind only India and Sri Lanka.

As a result, the crop plays a huge role in the country’s economy, with around 3 million people earning their livelihoods from the sector.

Approximately 60% of tea in Kenya is produced on small-scale family farms, and women smallholder farmers and informal workers play a vital role in the industry, making up the majority of the tea workforce.  

About the partnership

With support from its member companies Taylors of Harrogate and Lavazza, this three-year collaboration with the Ethical Tea Partnership will empower smallholder farmers and informal workers in three tea growing communities in Kenya.  

Together ActionAid and Ethical Tea Partnership 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.

Whilst 80% of programme participants will be women, we will also engage men as allies in all aspects of the programme. 

What we'll do

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

We will ensure the right policies are in place in the tea sector to ensure decent work and fair pay for farmers and workers.  

We'll support farmers and workers to organise into solidarity groups and train Rights Champions to help others learn about and claim their rights.  

And we'll convene with key industry and government stakeholders so that farmers and workers can raise concerns and plan for and implement improvements. 

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

We'll support the formation of women’s groups to amplify women’s voices, support women to challenge gender norms and discuss and claim their rights to freedom from violence.  

We'll challenge gender-based violence and support survivors to access essential services and legal aid.  

We'll establish a platform for dialogue with local government to advance women’s land rights, which are essential for raising women’s status and ending violence.  

And we'll train tea industry management to improve working practices and tackle gender-based violence.  

3. Improve the livelihoods for smallholder farmers and informal workers

We'll support women smallholder farmers and informal workers to diversify their incomes through access to entrepreneurship training and finance.   

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

We'll support solidarity groups to develop Community-Led Change Plans (CLCPs) and provide training so that they can hold local governments accountable for their commitments.  

Through this partnership we'll establish 45 solidarity groups across the 3 communities and train 1,350 Rights Champions, 80% of whom will be women. These Rights Champions will help improve the lives of 22,000 farmers and workers and their families.  

Together, we will also bring about structural change within the Kenyan tea sector by influencing policy changes that will have a positive impact on approximately 600,000 small-scale farmers and 300,000 informal tea workers in Kenya.  

Celestine, a farmer from Mobasa County, Kenya. Photo: Natalia Jidovanu/ActionAid

Page updated 11 May 2022