As climate change threatens Kenya’s tea plantations, some tea farmers are changing their crops to other crops to supplement their income.
The world’s most prominent black tea exporter, formerly known for its ideal tea-growing conditions, is now seeing the impacts of climate change.
Temperature increases, floods, and drought all pose a danger to tea plantation livelihoods. According to the man, Gabriel Mwatha Mbugua a tea farmer who has just converted to producing pineapples on a portion of his property.
Mbugua’s tea was planted in 1959 when the climate was dry and there was a lot of rain. The tea was being plucked four times a month, after every seven days. “These days, when we moved on, the climate changed. When it changed, we are not getting as much rain as we used to get then. So now, instead of four times, we do it two times”, he said.
A May 2021 study conducted by charity Christian Aid claims that the climate in Kenya’s ideal tea-growing region would shrink by almost a quarter by the year 2050 due to climate change. As a result, farmers and workers alike would be negatively affected.
“By 2050, the area that we are growing tea is going to like behalf of what there is, says Veronica Ndetu, a Kenyan-based climate change specialist. The area is also going to be unsuitable in terms of the soils, suitability of the soil, and also the rainfall amounts”, she said.
Kenya’s tea industry contributes about 4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Christian Aid report recommended cutting emissions to prevent climate change from accelerating harm caused to tea-growing regions. But as experts mount warnings about the dangers of climate change, Kenya’s tea growers are already witnessing a drop in production.