Kenya Tea and Forestry Groups Join Up for Research.
The MOU will enable the two research institutions to undertake joint research projects aimed at, among other things, strengthening capacity for research and management of trees in tea, farms and estates.
The project is aimed at finding solutions to a number of weather and environmental problems that have plagued the tea industry in the last two years, namely drought, hail and frost. In a joint press statement, the directors of TRFK and KEFRI Jeremiah Rutto and Dr. Pual Konuche respectively, say the problems facing tea farming arise out of change in land use -- from forest to agriculture.
Change in land use, they say, has resulted in unpredictable weather patterns and decline in water catchments due to rapid deforestation, which has recently led to severe drought and frost that has affected tea production this past year.
The research and development project also aims at finding suitable shade trees for tea bushes and adequate and sustainable fuel wood for farmers in tea growing areas.
The initial research will focus on the following: developing tree species which can be interplanted with tea to improve micro-climate; creating a better understanding of the role of forests and catchment areas in regulating climate; sensitizing policy makers on the importance of sustaining a proper forest/agriculture interface balance; and diversifying wood fuel species and enhancing production in tea growing areas.
Last year, tea production fell sharply following effects of drought, which was blamed on the dry La Nina weather phenomenon, hail and frost. Researchers link the unfavorable weather, to forest destruction in the catchment areas adjoining tea growing regions.