Prospects for organic tea farming in Kenya: Two case studies
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Organic tea farming entails non-use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers, including the processing and packaging of the tea. This implies that documents must be filed which prove all requirements are met throughout the growing, processing, packaging, and which can be traced by the organic certification organization. Today, almost all kinds of tea grown in Kenya are non-organic. This is despite the fact that only NPK fertilizers are used in tea farms. It is difficult just to make an organic tea farm because of the many non-organic tea farms around it. Dispersals of chemical fertilizers or herbicides and other chemical agents interfused through the soil from surrounding farms can enter the organic farm. Therefore, it is necessary to make a buffer zone or shelterbelt between an organic tea farm and nonorganic tea farm or to embrace organic tea cultivation together with the neighbouring farmers. However, the starting point is to establish that organic tea can indeed be grown economically. Two long term studies comparing different sources of organic manures in Kericho and Kangaita were assessed for yield, some soil properties and tea quality chemical parameters. The results reveal that although the organic manures do not give as high yields as the enriched manure treatments from inorganic sources, rates of 120-150 kgN/ha would suffice to replenish the lost nutrients thus maintaining tea bush health and also optimal yields. The soil pH, available K and Ca results also demonstrated that the organic manures can maintain the acidity levels of the soils thus addressing the often controversial land sustainability problem arising from use of external inputs in tea agroecosystems. Organic manures and enriched manures increased the TF and TR content while caffeine increased with increase in nitrogen rates. This was more pronounced when using inorganic fertilizers and enriched manures. The study suggests that development and promotion of organic and low carbon in the Tea Industry is key to the attainment of ecological health and environment protection by both the tea producers and consumers. Tea growers have to be compensated by benefiting from premium organic tea prices due to the loss in yields as seen by the higher yields arising from the enriched manures.