Smallholder tea farmers in Kericho County are set to benefit from a programme aimed at improving diets among tea farmers and their families.
This is one critical approach to combating and managing Non-Communicable Diseases (NDCs) prevalent among tea farmers.
The nutritional improvement programme aims at equipping farmers from the catchments of Kapkatet, Tebesonik, Toror and Tegat factories with knowledge and practical skills on diet improvement.
Poor diets have been classified as high-risk factors for NCDs and consumption of a healthy diet is key in preventing or managing some of the diseases such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
The project is being undertaken by a partnership between Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Foundation, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) – a Swiss-based foundation, and Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). The project is part of the Healthy Diets for Tea Communities programme run by GAIN and ETP, which is also working in Malawi and India.
This follows a successful implementation of a similar programme in 4 factories in 2018 -2020 where over 30,000 farmers were reached directly and indirectly over 1,000,000 through media platforms.
“Studies indicate that smallholder farmers and workers contributing to global cash crop value chains remain nutritionally vulnerable, with NCDs accounting for up to 50% of all hospital admissions in hospitals in Kenya” said Ms. Leah Kaguara the Country Director of GAIN.
“Their diets tend to be monotonous, consisting largely of staple foods and are inadequate in terms of micronutrient intakes, posing a risk to the health of farmers and in turn, reduce their productivity. This can be addressed through continuous education and demonstration on best nutrition practices.”
The project will include several facets such as nutrition sensitization and awareness creation to farmers in tea buying centres, training of community health volunteers who will then support in implementation; capacity building of kiosk sellers on nutrition to be able pass the right information to farmers and workers; training of farmers and workers on vegetable gardening and composting with the Ministry of Agriculture Kericho County.
The project is funded by international tea buyers who are members of ETP and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Other interventions include: dissemination of nutritional messages through an SMS platform targeting at least 5,000 farmers; conducting weekly nutrition program sessions that will reach 26,000 farmers and workers; community awareness meetings on best practices on proper cooking habits and diets to follow and conducting cooking demonstrations and competitions among small groups of farmers.
“The interventions will be implemented directly amongst approximately 26,000 smallholder farming families and indirectly over 104,000 people in the four KTDA-managed factories in Kericho County between April 2021 and August 2022,” KTDA Foundation Head Sudi Matara said.
The programme is also expected to raise awareness of changes needed at the policy level and by other industry stakeholders like buyers to boost better diet and nutrition among tea farming communities.
“It is expected that evidence generated through this project may assist in guiding the global tea sector to invest in further interventions that improve the nutrition and livelihoods of their farmers,” said Ms. Jane Nyambura, the ETP Programme Manager.