Posted in Kafevend Blog

Situated in the highlands west of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya is the county of Kericho. It contains the nation's largest water catchment area, the Mau Forest. Kericho's high altitude, rich volcanic soil and almost daily rainfall make it a perfect location for the cultivation of tea.Unsurprisingly, it is home to some of the largest tea plantations in Kenya.

When Kenya gained its independence from Britain in 1963 many tea companies stayed on, keen to continue farming in an area that is capable of producing the very finest of tea. Brooke Bond, Liptons and Lyons, all now owned by the well known Anglo-Dutch multi-national Unilever, cultivate tea in this region of East Africa. Brooke Bond exports tea to us here in the UK in the form of PG Tips, the brand it launched back in the 1930s.

With 32,000 acres of prime tea plantations, Unilever is a significant employer in what is a very poor part of the country. Workers are paid per kilo of tea picked, which works well until bad weather and poor tea plant growth occurs. However, Unilever tries hard to provide a range of benefits alongside employment. Many workers still live on the estate, as in colonial times, in free housing that is equipped with running water. Many also receive free education for their children and free healthcare.

The multi-national has also risen to environmental challenges and secured Rainforest Alliance certification. The bulk of its energy needs are met by renewable sources: hydropower stations and fuel wood plantations. It is involved in restoring indigenous forest and has a nursery which has thus far provided some three quarters of a million indigenous trees for the reforestation effort. Wildlife is already benefitting with an increasing diversity of bird species and growing populations of vervet, colobus and red-tailed monkeys.

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