Tea trees a source of income for farmers in Kenya

By Faith Kisiangani
Tea tree, a new tree species introduced in Laikipia, Nyeri, and Meru Counties by Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) is expected to have a huge impact in the livelihood of most arid farmers.
Tea trees, also called Melaleuca alternifolia, are native to the northeast coast of Australia and are known for their antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Around 3000 Tea trees can be planted in a quarter acre of land and one can harvest up to four kilos per tree per season and sell at Ksh10.50 per Kilogram. As such a farmer can make over Ksh.250,000 per acre per year, which is far much beyond what most farmers are currently making from other agro - enterprises. The tree can also be intercropped with Desmodium for fodder and mulching.

Tea Tree at fifteen months after planting in Nanyuki 2013
Since 2005, KOAN has worked with Earth Oil and farmers from Laikipia, Nyeri, and Meru County to develop the Tea tree oil value chain. Specifically KOAN trained groups of farmers on organic production, trainings on organic standards certification, group governance and dynamics. KOAN also facilitated linkages with Earth Oil Ltd, who buy raw tree leaves and branches for Tea tree oil extraction and later export to Bio Shop in United Kingdom. Currently KOAN is working with 521 farmers spread across the Laikipia county (Matanya, Sweet Water, Marura and Ndurukuma areas) Nyeri and Meru County.