Earthoil’s supply partner has organised an organic and FairTrade certified farmers’ group, based around the foothills of Mount Kenya, grows and produce tea tree oil. Not only does the income that this provides support more than 750 families, but they also benefit from the fair trade development premium, which is used in social projects around the farming community.
The farmers receive constant assistance from Earthoil-employed agronomists and field officers on planting and production procedures, organic and Fair Trade standards, 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 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 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. The fair trade fund has also enabled the purchase of a plot of land on which a social hall and health centre will be built, which will provide a base for a local doctor. This will have a big impact on the local communities.
No chemical inputs – All our 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 mulchingetc. 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.
Vermicompost unit – This new project uses processed tea tree leaves as well as manure to produce nutrient-rich compost through the use of red worms.
No waste – In our 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 our 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. Our donkeys help us keep the weeds down while producing rich manure for our vermicompost.
The tea trees are cut by hand and transported to our distillation unit. The pure leaf essential oil is then extracted by steam distillation at Earthoil’s processing unit 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. Due 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 and conditioners, mouthwashes, soaps, foot sprays, foot powders, shaving products and deodorants.