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Kenya: As Climate Change Threatens Kenyan Tea, Millions of Workers Seen At Risk

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Nairobi — Shifting temperatures and rainfall set to hit production of the world’s most popular beverage in key growing regions, says Christian Aid report

Climate change is set to ravage tea production in Kenya, the biggest global supplier of black tea, threatening the livelihoods of millions of plantation workers, a report by British charity Christian Aid warned on Monday.

The report looked at how shifting temperatures and rainfall patterns in tea-growing regions in Kenya, India, Sri Lanka and China could affect the quality and yield of the world’s most popular beverage.

Tea is one of Kenya’s top foreign currency earners, along with tourism and remittances, employing about three million people.

But the East African country – which produces almost half the tea consumed in Britain – is likely to see the areas with optimal and medium tea-growing conditions shrink by about 25% and 40% respectively by 2050, the report said.

Climatic changes will also make it increasingly difficult for tea growers to move into new, previously uncultivated regions, it said, adding that the decline in output was already being felt on the ground.

“The conditions here used to be good and we had a great tea harvest. When the climate changed, the production of tea in my farm dropped,” said Richard Koskei, 72, a tea farmer from Kericho in Kenya’s western highlands.

“We have nothing else to rely on here. People in my community will consider running away from tea farming, with jobs lost, and consumers of tea might see the price rise.”

According to a U.N. survey of 700 growers in all seven of Kenya’s tea regions, farmers observed changes in rainfall patterns, distribution, and reduced yields tied to climate change.

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More than 40% of respondents said they had noticed changes in rainy and dry seasons, which led to shifts in the planting season, while 35% cited drought.