Fintea Growers Co-operative Union Ltd (Fintea) is a union of five tea co-operatives.
Fintea’s 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.
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.
Fairtrade has substantially increased our standard of living and we are assured of a better future.Mrs Elizabeth Chepkwony, Fintea tea farmer
Following Finlays’ acceptance, the farmers formed five co-operative societies, 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 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).
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Construction of bridges to connect communities, ease transport problems and facilitate commercial activities.