Iriaini Tea Factory Ltd, Kenya
Located in the Nyeri region of Kenya, the volcanic soil of the area supports tea, coffee and dairy farming along with food crops such as maize, beans and vegetables.
Located in the Nyeri County, in the central region of Kenya, 50km north of Nairobi.
FLO ID 4668
Fairtrade certified since 2006
Number of members 7,137
Iriaini first started in 1981 with 2,000 shareholders. As an independent tea factory, Iriaini represents smallholder farmers who, as shareholders of these factories, supply 60% of Kenya’s green leaf. As such, Iriaini is part the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which also provides technical and marketing services. KTDA is the privatised successor to a state-run enterprise set up in the 1960s to build and operate tea factories as part of a scheme to develop the smallholder tea sector and increase rural incomes. Today, Iriaini represents 7,137 smallholders who farm on average 0.5 hectares. Members deliver their freshly plucked green leaf to local buying centres where it is weighed and transported to the factory.
The Impact of Fairtrade
Through training, the members of Iriaini have grow their capacity for project development and management. They have also invested their Fairtrade Premium in various areas, which include:
- Increased earning by exporting packaged tea directly to the UK supermarket shelves
- Updating the tea drying process using biomass. Compressed organic matter such as leaves, sawdust, maize combs, coffee husks and twigs are turned into bricks, which are ready to use for drying. This biomass, unlike firewood, is a renewable source made of material that would otherwise be discarded.
- Training on crop diversification as a source of extra income. Iriaini farmers now grow passion fruit, tomatoes, and sunflowers, as well as keep livestock.
- The creation of a small loans scheme, providing credit to members who otherwise have difficulty obtaining bank loans.
- The creation and renovation of local buying centres to reduce the time that farmers spend delivering their crops.
- Upgrading the facilities of local schools, like installing more toilet facilities for the students
The faces of Iriaini
Charles is a smallholder tea farmer and co-owner of the Iriaini Tea Factory. He works on his plot of 0.5 acres every day, caring for his tea plants and collecting freshly plucked leaves in a basket he carries on his back. He often thinks of his four children, and how he has prioritised their education. Charles says that because his plot of land is too small to divide it up among them, his children will have to find their own way. Like Charles, many tea farmers put a priority on education and good schools. The group has invested their Fairtrade Premium in upgrading the facilities of a local secondary school. With the investment, many children, who had to drop out after primary school, suddenly saw their future open up again.
Here we see Margareth Njeri, as she is picking tea leaves in the field near Othaya.