Our Farm Blog

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Renewable Energy and Renewable Firewood Sourcing

In a lecture given at the Royal Agricultural College in 2012, Cirencester, Professor John Sulston, stated how the planet and its resources are finite and that it was no longer an option to invest in renewable energy sources but a necessity. A view that we agree whole heartily with.

For the past five years we have been actively engaged in securing our own source of firewood from gum plantations to enable us to operate our factories with the desired high voiumes of green leaf. The cycle of these gum plantations from planting to harvest is approximately 12 years. By the end of 2015 we hope to have secured sufficient areas on our own land to manage our factories responsibly with our own sources of gum trees. When we buy firewood, which is a costly operation, we only buy from mature sustainable gum plantations. Regrettably this is not always the case with our competitors. More factories in Kenya are opening and being granted manufacturing licenses. These factories do not have a secured supply of sustainable firewood and we often view immature and unseasoned wood from indigenous or unsustainable sources being sold, even on the roadsides.

This practice was recently highlighted by a quick witted journalist in a newspaper article and our trade body the KTGA has taken up the matter with the appropriate authorities. The lack of sustainable firewood to power our boilers and the lack of cost effective alternatives places a heavy restriction on the future growth of the Kenya Tea Industry.

The Commission of Sustainable Agriculture lists a number of essential reforms need to ensure the long term viability of operations and systems. Amongst these are the need to trap carbon and this combined with the rising cost of essential inputs such as electricity has meant that we have made the decision to invest into a large scale Solar Photovoltaic system at Changoi. The aim is to provide sufficient power to run the factory entirely from solar energy during daylight hours and we view this investment into solar technology as an essential part of our business operations to ensure it our sustainability. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

What does Sustainable Farming mean?

In recent years the prominence of environmental, social and economic challenges have raised, aggravated by climate change, population growth, soil degradation and destruction of wildlife habitat. Companies look harder into all aspects of their business to ensure long term viability not just for themselves but also the surrounding communities that their operations support.

Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The stewardship of both natural and human resources is paramount. Stewardship of land natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term, whilst stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of farm workers, the needs of the rural communities and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future.

So what does Sustainable Farming mean to Williamson Tea?

Williamson Tea has always held a long term view of agriculture and the running of our farms, we are a fifth generation farming family, so know about planning for the long term!

We take a whole system approach with an understanding of wider awareness that allows us to appreciated how each activity on the farms are connected not just to the farm but also the local ecosystem, with communities affected by the farming system both locally and globally.

We consider carefully the three basic elements of sustainability;

Environment Protection; The first and most basic point, we aim to protect the natural resource base on which our farming depends, in other words sustainability in its most literal and narrow sense. As farmers and custodians of the land we understand the importance of improving soil fertility, reducing erosion and preventing water pollution, as well as strengthening biodiversity, conservation and sourcing energy from renewal sources. We are actively investing in Photovoltaic Systems for our farms to enable our factories to be powered entirely by Solar energy, whilst we are also self sufficient in firewood, sourcing all our timber from our own Eucalyptus Gum plantations.

Social Responsibility; Our farms employ many hundreds of people, who together with their families live on the farms and surrounding areas. We have a huge social responsibility towards these dependents and provide not only a safe environment for them to work in, but free housing, health care, education, family planning and importantly a level of wages in excess of any other comparable agricultural job in Kenya.  We invest in our work force helping to improve their skills and the opportunities available to them and our farms in the future.

Economic Viability; Long term success of any business depends on its economic viability and with local communities dependent on the success of the farm it is not just are own employees that we are responsible for. Whilst independent charitable schemes have their place, we are committed to the long term development of our communities and business and therefore it is ‘Trade Not Aid’ that will ensure the sustainability of Williamson Tea and our communities for years to come.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Williamson Tea  Online Twitter Chat in support of Follow the Frog Week

How it works;

Tweeters can send questions to Williamson Tea on the topic of Sustainable Tea Farming, with particular reference to renewable energy sourcing and wildlife maintenance.

Williamson Tea will pick 6 questions at 10 minute intervals from 3-4pm.

Anyone can join the open discussion by posting their opinion and comments using the #sustainabletea. Tweeters can follow the conversation by searching for the #sustainabletea in their Twitter search box.

Tweeters are asked to announce themselves and their affiliations when joining the Twitter chat and Williamson Tea reserve the right to choose which questions are answered and delete inappropriate or unconnected comments or questions immediately.

The following questions are suggested to get the chat rolling;
  •  What does Sustainable Agriculture mean?
  •  What are the key factors in sustainable tea production?
  • What works are currently undertaken by Williamson Tea to improve their sustainability.
  • Where does Williamson Tea source its power? Do other companies do the same?
  • What are the barriers to sustainable farming and sourcing renewable energy?
  • What are our plans for the future?