Kenya: School children benefit from fairly traded tea (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| March 10, 2014

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For students at Kapsoo Girls’ Secondary School in Nandi Hills, a dormitory is more than just a place to sleep. It is a place to avoid bad weather and pollution from kerosene lamps. And it can also be a sanctuary from harassment.

Nancy Sugut is a form three student who dreams of being an engineer after she completes secondary school. She can now realize her dream because of a dormitory constructed with funds from Fair trade tea.

Ms. Sugut sits on her bed inside the dormitory. She says: “When I used to walk from school to home, the distance was long. Boys and men kept disturbing me, wanting to rape me, and I could reach home very late.”

It rains a lot in the region around Nandi Hills, which is great for growing tea. But, with poor roads, the students get wet and muddy when they walk to school.

The Sireet Outgrowers Empowerment and Producers Company is a fair trade-certified organization that helps provide education to needy students. Members of the farming co-operative contribute some of their earnings from fair trade premiums to a social fund. The fund helps build and renovate schools and clinics in poorer communities.

Paul Tiony is the director of Sireet. He says, “There are families which cannot even afford two meals a day, and for students from such families, we give them full bursaries.”

Beatrice Chepkoril says she didn’t have enough time to spend on her studies at home, and it was hard to complete her homework.

She recalls, “There was always a lack of kerosene at home, and studying was a problem.”

The smoke produced by kerosene lamps is also a health risk.

Ms. Chepkoril says, “I thank [Sireet] for building this dormitory. Here I can study well. I sleep at ten and wake up at five to go to class for preps. The lights are always [on] in class and I have no worries.”

The dormitory sleeps 90 students. Mary Jelagat is the school principal. She says the number of students has increased since the dormitory was constructed. She expects the school will need to expand its facilities in the future.

Mrs. Jelagat explains, “Fair trade also provides bursaries to the needy students, and this has made the school’s academic performance improve so much.”

Viola Jepleting is a second year computer science student at the University of Eldoret. She had dropped out of school in form three before Sireet came to her rescue. She says: “They paid my school fees for form three and four, and since I passed the exams, they are now paying for my university degree.”

Wilson Tuwei is Sireet’s chairman. He says the launch of Fairtrade Eastern Africa is proving to be a blessing, and hopes that more Kenyans will buy products with the Fairtrade mark. He says, “We ask our consumers to buy more tea so that we can give more back to the community.”