August 10, 2012
We’ve already discussed how Project Rwanda is making a difference to the quality of life for 10,000 smallholder farmers and is also improving the quality of our luxury Yorkshire Gold blend. This week, we’d like to explain a little about Rainforest Alliance who we work closely with.
You may have noticed the Rainforest Alliance logo on boxes of Yorkshire Gold. Well, the Rainforest Alliance is an independent body that is dedicated to helping people and the environment prosper. By being Rainforest Alliance certified, farmers not only work in a more environmentally and socially conscious way, they are also helped to improve the quality and quantity of the tea they produce, resulting in better prices and more tea to sell.
A big factor in achieving this is education. The Rainforest Alliance works directly with Rwandan tea growers to train them and their workers in better agricultural practices that minimize the effect tea growing has on the land. The farming communities are also supported in developing improved sanitation, health care, schooling, and housing which all help to improve the wellbeing of the farmers we buy from.
Some of the Rainforest Alliances’ key principles involve instilling relatively simple practical steps that tea farmers and workers can adapt to their own needs. These include better waste and water management, soil conservation, tree planting and the use of personal protective equipment.
Let’s take waste management. Tea production can produce waste water that is often, once used, left to stream straight back into rivers. By using a natural water filtration system, consisting of tiered beds of plants, the water is cleaned naturally and allowed to flow safely into the local water supply; proper composting provides a rich and free fertilizer that can be put back on the crop; organic waste can be used to produce natural biogas and recyclable waste can be separated and often sold.
Soil conservation is vital to allow the long term prosperity of a tea farm, not to mention the food security of local communities. In Rwanda’s tropical climate, heavy rainfall can easily wash away this vital commodity if measures are not taken to retain it. Composting, planting, and control of water run-off are all skills that Rainforest Alliance farmers take on board and which make a huge difference.
Finally, as their name suggests, the Rainforest Alliance has a particular soft spot for trees! Indigenous species are planted on certified tea estates across the tea-producing world. In Rwanda there are now a significant number of seedling nurseries established purely to supply tea farmers with hardwood varieties native to their country so they can help to preserve natural woodlands.
So all these steps not only reduce harm they also help make more money for the tea growers. Oh, and we get even better quality tea for our luxury Yorkshire Gold blend.
Over 75% of the tea that goes into our Yorkshire Gold and Yorkshire Tea blends currently comes from Rainforest Alliance certified tea estates and gardens. We’re gradually increasing these percentages and by 2014, we aim to have 100% of the tea in our tea bags supplied by Rainforest Alliance certified growers.
It’s possible, it’s worth it and it’s our commitment to improving the lives of tea growers, workers and their families worldwide. It’s working too – as 10,000 Rwandan smallholders will testify.