Earthoil’s supply partner has organised an organic and Fair Trade certified farmers’ group, based around the foothills of Mount Kenya, which grows and produces tea tree oil. Not only does the income that this provides support more than 950 families, but they also benefit from the fair trade development premium, which is used in social projects around the farming community.
The farmers receive continual assistance from agronomists and field officers on planting and production procedures, organic and Fair Trade standards, as well as quality and product integrity. They are also trained about water harvesting techniques, drip irrigation, natural resource management, soil conservation and health and safety. Financial support is also provided so that the farmers can purchase seedlings. Earthoil’s supply partner arranges meetings and annual awards ceremonies where the best producing farmers are awarded prizes. Farmers are given assistance to attend the meetings as they live in remote areas with poor access. Over 4 million tea trees have been planted to date and the project is currently being scaled up as we are adapting to the demand for tea tree.
Fair and safe working conditions
The farmers are paid a Fair Price. This is audited by the certification body to ensure that negotiations are transparent and the price model being developed together with the farmers. Production costs are covered by the payments and give a reasonable margin to provide a decent and sustained income for the farmer’s household. The farmers have to pay a minimum of local rates to their workers and working conditions must be clearly defined. No child labour is allowed. Farmers and workers are trained regularly on health & safety and first aid.
As part of the Fair for Life programme, a fair trade premium is paid in addition to the sales price and is kept in a separate account for community projects and social development as decided by the producers and workers. The premium is paid for both the produce bought from the farmer and the tea tree produced on Earthoil’s supply partner’s own farm.
The Fair Trade premium is managed by the farmers’ and workers’ representatives and has been used, for example, to provide secondary school scholarships for 6 local needy children, water tanks for farmers, bursaries for workers’ and community children, solar panels, gas stoves, computer training, driving licences, food for orphanages and local primary schools.
No chemical inputs – All the tea tree production is certified organic, this means that use of any chemicals is prohibited. Soil fertility is maintained and enhanced by use of compost, manure and mulching. This makes the crop less dependent on external inputs and better for the environment and the health of the farmer, workers and their families.
Less water usage – Tea tree is a drought-resistant plant so it needs very little water. What water is used comes from glacier-fed irrigation system that runs from Mount Kenya.
No waste – In the facility and farm, we re-use and recycle as much as we can. Macadamia shells as a reject from the macadamia industries is used to fire the boiler. The processed biomass is used as mulching and decomposed quickly by our active and efficient soil microflora while reducing evaporation of water at the same time. The donkeys help us keep the weeds down while producing rich manure for the vermicompost. Part of the distillation waste is converted through pyrolysis into Biochar, a fantastic soil amendment which helps retaining water and nutrients while storing carbon into the soil.
The tea trees are cut by hand and transported to our partner’s distillation unit. The pure leaf essential oil is then extracted by steam distillation at a processing unit based in Nanyuki. The oil is stored and packed into sealed drums ready for exporting. Records, separation, traceability and quality are controlled through the whole process to ensure our requirements are always met.
Uses and benefits of tea tree
The compounds in natural tea tree oil benefit the skin and are non-irritating. Tea tree essential oil contains several important compounds, including terpenes, cymenes, pinenes, terpineols, cineol, sesquiterpenes, and sesquiterpene alcohols and is widely used in health and beauty products. Thanks to its antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil is ideal for use in shampoos, creams, skin cleansers, moisturisers, body lotions, shampoos, conditioners, mouthwashes, soaps, foot sprays, foot powders, shaving products and deodorants.