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Monday, 4 August 2014

KOAN scaling up production of tea tree in Nanyuki

By Teresa Ndirangu
The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), Earthoil Company Limited and farmers within Nanyuki in Laikipia County have started scaling up production of tea tree. The implementation of the project which started last month will last for two (2) years. The project is being sponsored by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Project (SGP).  
The project is expected to improve food security and livelihood opportunities among small scale producers, women and youths through agro ecological approaches and development of organic tea tree value chain.
Tea Tree value chain is being promoted in arid and semi arid areas of Nanyuki as it is resilient to effects of climate change and does well in extreme harsh and dry weather conditions. The area is among the most affected by climate change such as long dry spells, unpredictable weather and degradation of the environment.
A farmer at her tea tree farm
Laikipia County is mainly composed of farmers, pastoralists and ranchers. Most of the farmers and pastoralists have limited sources of income. Tea tree production is expected to provide an alternative source of income to the communities.
Currently 460 farmers from Matanya, Sweet Water, Marura and Ndurukuma have been incorporated in the project. With the current scale of production, the farmers are not able to meet the demand of tea tree oil.
KOAN and Earthoil Company Limited, intends to include more farmers from Ndurukuma, Thome, Kihato and Ngare Nyiro areas of Laikipia County to increase tea tree oil production hence meet the demand. 
Tea tree also referred to as Melaleuca alternifolia matures with 15 months after establishment and there after harvested twice per year. The crop requires low labour input and less field management since it is not affected by pests, diseases or eaten by domestic animals.
The production of oil per biomass weight is very high in tea tree compared to other crops. Therefore farmers return per unit area is higher than other crops grown in the region.
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