About 1,056 smallholder tea farmers in Honde Valley recently attained the internationally acclaimed UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification — a requisite requirement of the global tea market.
The certification process was facilitated by SNV, which worked hand-in-glove with the Honde Valley Smallholder Development Company, a part of the DANIDA funded Rural Agriculture Revitalisation Project (RARP). RARP is an initiative that seeks to facilitate the commercialisation of smallholder agriculture in Zimbabwe with a view to promoting improved household incomes, employment, food and nutritional security.
This is the second time that Zimbabwean smallholder farmers have attained the prestigious certification. Prior to this only large-scale plantations and commercial farmers had attained the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certifications. 2015 was a special year as 542 smallholder farmers followed in the footsteps of 514 tea farmers who had attained the certification in 2014. This amounts to a total of 1,056 farmers with a certification. The 514 who attained the certification last year were rewarded the certification for the second time.
The certification process in 2014 followed the market needs assessments made by SNV, where the tea exporter, Eastern Highlands Plantation Limited (EHPL), indicated that most foreign markets were increasingly demanding the certification as a pre-requisite to do business. Furthermore, such markets had tentatively set December 2015 as the cut-off date for buying uncertified tea, putting pressure on the estate and its growers to get certified.
Ms. Rutendo Gwakwa, the SNV horticulture local capacity builder was ecstatic about the development. “The biggest international tea buyers have committed to tackle climate change by buying products that come from sustainable farms. As a result, 2015 was set as the deadline for all tea growers to comply with internationally agreed sustainability standards. Certification was generally considered to be unattainable for smallholder farmers. This event is set to show other smallholder farmers that they too can become players in the global economy,” said Ms. Gwaka. She added that after 2015, the global market will no longer buy non-certified tea as Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certifications have become a necessity to assure sustainability of the tea growing business in the world.
The certification ensures economic inclusion and access to global markets for Zimbabwean smallholder farmers. One of the farmers, Mrs. Rudo Nyamapfeni, said SNV had improved the fortunes of Honde Valley tea farmers: “We have seen a great change as a farming community over the past two years. We are now in a stage in which we can continue with the tea projects even if these organisations leave today. We are very grateful,” said Mrs. Nyamapfeni.
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