Managing Long Term Risks in the Tea Sector in Malawi, Kenya and Rwanda

Tea is extremely important for the economies and livelihoods in tea-producing countries. African tea producers have been steadily growing in recent decades, with ambitions in many countries to expand production. However tea is an extremely climate sensitive plant, requiring very specific agro-climatic conditions. The expansion of the tea industry is not only restricted to these suitable agro-climatic regions, but needs to consider how climate change could impact the suitability of existing and planned plantations. Climate change poses a significant risk to tea growing regions, not only because of changes in average climate conditions but also due to the changing intensity and frequency of climate extremes such as heat waves, dry spells and heavy rainfall. Research from FCFA has provided new understanding for how the climate might change and how this may impact tea growing regions of Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda. While projections for the future indicate that all regions are likely to experience increasing temperatures, projections for rainfall are less certain. While average rainfall may increase or decrease, it is likely that rainfall will become more variable with the possibility of fewer days of rain, more heavy rainfall and longer dry periods. The potential impacts these changes pose to tea yields and quality make it vital for tea growers to start planning for climate change.