In the areas currently growing tea, farmers will increasingly become more vulnerable as climate change continues. The area is also going to be unsuitable in terms of the soils and rainfall consistency.
Kenya, the world’s largest black tea exporter is feeling the pinch of the effects of climate change that has seen the countries tea growers shift to producing other crops.
As climate change bites, tea plantations in Kenya are constantly threatened by rising temperatures, floods, and sometimes drought.
According to a report published by Charity Christian Aid in May 2021, by 2050 the changing climate will slash Kenya’s optimal tea production conditions by over a quarter. This would hurt farmers and workers alike.
“We have reports saying that by 2050, the area that we are growing tea will be half of what we have now. In the areas currently growing tea, farmers will increasingly become more vulnerable as the climate continues to change. The area is also going to be unsuitable in terms of the soils and rainfall consistency”, said Veronica Ndetu, climate change expert at Kenya’s, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
Some farmers in the country are already feeling the pinch. Gabriel Mwatha Mbugua, a tea farmer in Kenya, says he has switched to growing pineapples on part of his land to supplement his income.
Gabriel notes that the tea plantations he grew up with have significantly reduced due to insufficient rainfall.
“Back then, there was a lot of rain and this tea could be plucked four times a month. These days, because we are not getting as many rains, we only harvest half of what we used to get. So now, instead of four times, we do it two times. Therefore, I chose to plant a crop that doesn’t need as much rainfall; pineapples,” Mbugua said in an interview.
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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, and Kenya’s tea industry contributing about 4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), tea growers are already witnessing a drop in production.