The Kenya Organic Oil Farmers' Association (KOOFA) is made up of 380 small-scale famers, half of them women. Due to AIDS-related deaths, many of these women are supporting their family alone. Growing tea tree helps all its farmers to earn a steady income.
Rural poverty in Kenya has several causes: low rural productivity, land degradation, insecure land tenure, unemployment and low wages. Unlike some other cash crops, tea tree plants have survived Kenya's recent droughts, a lifeline for impoverished farmers.Our trade with the co-operative KOOFA based in the foothills of Mt Kenya helps give around 270 smallholder farmers access to a reliable income and a greater say in their futures.
Our Community Trade organic tea tree oil grows on the foothills of Mount Kenya in mineral-rich volcanic soil. The leaves are hand-picked and irrigated with glacial water for effective oil. When ready to be harvested, the best leaves are picked by hand, then steam-distilled to release the organic oil.
KOOFA farmers Jacinta and Sampson are harvesting their tea tree crop
WASTE NOT WANT NOT
None of the tea tree goes to waste. The main branches are used by the farmers for firewood or to support crops like beans. Smaller, thinner branches are processed along with the leaves. After distillation, the leftover plant fibres are used on the crops. Our supplier tells us that tea tree makes "a very good mulch".
Many people in remote, rural areas of Kenya don't have reliable access to safe, clean drinking water. Our trade with KOOFA enables it to work on projects that improve the amount of clean water its local communities can drink.
KOOFA's members are paid direct to their bank accounts, which the farmers can access through their mobile phone. This saves the farmers the long walk to get money. It has also given them a credit history and access to finance, which they can draw on to grow their business.