Over the last four years, as part of our commitment to strengthen the communities of our global strategic suppliers, we’ve partnered with the Kenyan Tea Development Agency to sponsor children through secondary school and improve access to fresh water. Becky Mundy from the Sourcing team tells us more:
In Kenya, secondary education isn’t free for everyone so only about 60% of children aged 13 and above continue their education. Our biggest tea supplier, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), see education as the best way to develop communities in which they work, so several years ago set up a scholarship programme giving children from tea growing families the opportunity to continue their education. We’ve been co-funding scholarships with them for the last four years, and some of the children we first supported are just about to graduate from high school.
Calvin – whose parents farm tea in Kathangariri close to Mount Kenya – is one of those students. ‘I had no way of getting school fees. It’s expensive and I’m the youngest in a big family,’ he told me. ‘I remember very well the day I was awarded the scholarship. It was a great help to my parents. It relieved their stress when I was able to go to school.’ Calvin wants to become an engineer and is waiting for his results to find out whether he’ll be able to go to university. Another student, Teresa, wants to become a social worker. She grinned as she told me, ‘I want to assure you that I’ll do my best. Now that I have the opportunity, I want to live my life to the fullest.’
Another way we’re supporting tea farming communities is through working with the KDTA to improve access to fresh water – and this year alone we’ve installed 53 rainwater harvesting tanks at schools, medical centres and children’s homes. ‘Look how fresh and clean the water is!’ beamed Mr Michael, a teacher at Mwagu Primary School, as he turned on the tap. It’s safe to say I’ve never seen anyone so excited about turning on a tap before – but, of course, having a clean, reliable source of water is something I’ve always taken for granted.
Many tea growing communities have mains water but supply can be unpredictable and often cuts out for long periods. Rainwater harvesting – channelling water from roofs into huge tanks – is efficient and environmentally-friendly. And with water an expensive commodity in Kenya, it also saves costs. With the savings made many schools have been able to improve facilities or employ more staff. There are also health benefits. Joyce Njero, a nurse at Mbugiti Dispensary where we’ve helped install a tank told me, ‘Many of our patients now come to collect water to wash and we provide them with soap. We’ve really noticed a reduction in water-borne diseases in the community.’ Altogether these water tanks are benefiting 16,800 school children and a further 10,200 people.
All in all, it was one of the best, most memorable overseas trips of my career – and heart-warming and inspiring to see the impact we’re having by working in partnership with our suppliers.