Helping Kenya’s forests and its tea industry’s energy problem

Rainforest Alliance tea picking farmer
Rainforest Alliance

Arlita is part of a team of IKEA Sweden co-workers taking part in an IWitness trip to the Rainforest Alliance in Central Kenya.

Kenya is the world’s leading exporter of black tea with more than 115 tea factories. These factories need a huge amount of firewood and consume over 6 million trees annually. The firewood heats the boilers used in the withering and drying process.

As climate change brings more erratic weather patterns, fewer trees are growing which means there is less firewood available. This has inevitably increased the price. Unusual weather patterns also mean the tea quality and quantity varies a lot.

The alternative to firewood is a block of combustible biomass called briquette. The current challenges of using briquettes are their inconsistent quality, low supplies and high price. Therefore, the IKEA Foundation is partnering with Rainforest Alliance to improve the quality and quantity of briquettes made by the rural community in the area.

This not only to secures the energy source of the tea factory but also empowers the local community. The target is for the tea factories to switch to 70% briquettes and 30% firewood consumption.

    Arlita Rahman