FINTEA GROWERS CO-OPERATIVE UNION LTD, Kenya

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Fintea Growers Co-operative Union Ltd (Fintea) is a union of five tea co-operatives whose farmer members sell their green leaf to nearby Finlays tea factories.

About Fintea

Finlays tea factories. Their farms are located in the highlands of Kericho and Bomet counties in Rift Valley province where the tropical climate, rich volcanic soils, well distributed rainfall and long sunny days are ideal for growing tea. The region is considered home to the best tea in Kenya, which is ranked third behind China and India in global tea production.

Fairtrade has substantially increased our standard of living and we are assured of a better future.

Mrs Elizabeth Chepkwony

Fintea tea farmer

Background and Structure

Members of Fintea originally belonged to 42 separate organisations known as self help groups who sold their green leaf for low prices to local traders who in turn sold it on to tea factories at the expense of the farmers. In 2008 the farmers approached James Finlay (Kenya) Ltd with a proposal to bypass traders and supply green leaf directly to its tea factories – Finlays is an international tea company that produces 23 million kilos of tea a year from its four tea estates and factories in the Kericho area. 

Following Finlays’ acceptance, the farmers formed five co-operative societies, collectively known as Finlay Outgrowers Group, to give the farmers a stronger negotiating position, simplify administration and enable them to benefit from economies of scale and improve productivity. Members jointly own the business, enabling them to share profits and improve their livelihoods. 

The UK Co-operative Group, which already purchased the farmers’ tea via Finlays, set up a three-year ‘co-operative to co-operative’ trade development project to strengthen the organisation and support it in becoming Fairtrade certified and implementing GLOBAL GAP standards which are required by European retailers. 

Known as the Kibange project, which means “coming together as one” in the local Kalenjin language, it received technical and financial support from Finlays, the Africa Now! Charity, the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID) and the Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH). The organisation was registered as a co-operative union in 2012 under its new name of Fintea Growers Co-operative Union and now represents 12,760 farmers. 

Fintea provides services such as bulk purchase of inputs and has assisted members to diversify their crops to cushion against unstable incomes. Mangetout, sugar snaps, fine beans and garden peas are now being grown for export to European markets with support from Finlay Horticulture (Kenya).

Production and Sales

In 2012 Fintea members sold 30.8 million kg of green leaf which Finlays processed into 7.03 million kg of ‘made’ tea. The tea is marketed by Finlays as 100% smallholder tea under the Bondet and Masingi brand names and sold at Mombasa auction or by direct sales to European markets. The farmers receive a negotiated green leaf payment plus a second payment based on the average selling price Finlays receives for the tea.   

Fairtrade

Fintea was Fairtrade certified in January 2012. It currently sells an average of 2% of its tea to Fairtrade buyers including the supply chain for Co-operative brand Fairtrade 99 Tea. Payment for these sales includes the additional Fairtrade Premium of $0.50/kg to invest in business improvements and community development. The premium fund is overseen by the Premium Committee which includes representatives of each co-operative who consult with their members to decide which projects to fund. 

Fairtrade Premium Projects

Healthcare

Fintea has given financial support to the Help a Child Face Tomorrow charity which organised free cleft lip and palate surgery for 45 children and adults at Kericho District Hospital in May 2013. 

Social functions

A number of marquees have been purchased for members to use for celebrations, funerals, fundraisings and other social functions. They are an important resource for members as few villages have social halls.

Proposed projects

The Premium Committee has received a large number of proposals for consideration from the primary co-operatives and will disburse funds for approved projects during January 2014. Projects include:

Micro finance

Fintea Savings & Credit Co-operative Society (SACCO) will provide members with financial services including affordable loans and savings and insurance schemes. SACCO will provide credit to members who would otherwise have difficulty obtaining bank loans because of prohibitive interest rates. 

Education and training

Support local education by equipping school laboratories and funding school improvements; scholarships for bright orphans and destitute students; adult education workshops. Training for farmers on good agricultural practices, environmental issues, financial controls and other issues related to the business operation of the co-operatives. 

Environment

Protection of ecosystems and water sources; reforestation through tree nurseries and tree planting programmes; reduction of soil erosion; supplying members with energy saving Jikos ovens to reduce use of firewood.

Healthcare

Construction/upgrade of medical facilities; supply of medical equipment and drugs; funding of medical camps (access to doctors and free treatment); provision of clean water and farm irrigation via tanks and bore holes. 

Infrastructure

Construction of bridges to connect communities, ease transport problems and facilitate commercial activities.