Factors Influencing Sustainability Of Smallholder Tea Production: A Case Of Women Farmers In Iriaini Tea Factory, Othaya Division, Nyeri County
Tea is the most popular drink in the world making the tea industry a booming global business. Kenya is the fourth top tea producer nation in the world and earns billions from the industry. The tea sector is mainly supplied by smallholder tea farmers who produce about 62 per cent of total tea production. Tea production is labour intensive and the industry provides jobs in remote rural areas, whereby millions of livelihoods around the world depend on tea picking and processing. It also improves the gender-imbalance in employment in rural communities through provision of large-scale livelihood for women who are favoured in the picking operations. The study investigated the factors influencing sustainability of tea farming for smallholder women. It focused on smallholder tea farmers in Nyeri County and was guided by the three main objectives; that is assessing how collective bargaining, economic benefits and regular farmer training influences women’s continued engagement in tea production. Descriptive survey design was used as the research methodology for this study. A structured questionnaire and in-depth interviews were used as the principal data collection tools. The main findings of the study were that collective bargaining, economic benefits and training all interact to influence women’s engagement in tea production. The study recommends that, a deeper understanding of the variables surrounding gender issues in tea production by the policy makers and tea related institutions is necessary in order to plan adequately for the smallholder tea women farmers. Further, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the Tea Board of Kenya, the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya and the KTDA should institute appropriate policies and infrastructure to support the tea sector and especially women farmers. Further research areas have also been highlighted.