In 2014 the Chai Project, in partnership with Unilever and the Igominyi Tea Outgrowers Association (ITOA), launched the Njombe Project in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. This ambitious greenfield development will result in over 3,800 Ha of smallholder tea, and a modern 2-3 line tea processing factory that is majority smallholder supplied.
As part of this project the Njombe Outgrowers Service Company (NOSC) has been formed to provide tea planting services, patient capital, agronomic advice and production logistics (collection, weighing, transport, payment) to smallholder farmers on a commercial, cost recovery basis. Unilever is establishing the factory and core estate, and will provide a premium market for the smallholder tea farmers, while a grassroots cooperative will be developed to represent the participating farmers of Njombe District.
To date over 13 million seedlings have been produced for smallholder planting, with 600 hectares of new smallholder tea professionally planted. There are presently 1,100 smallholder tea farmers in the project organised in 33 villages across 5 tea catchment areas.
Land consolidation is a key thrust for NOSC, and will enable these farmers to achieve estate level yields through professional management while saving costs through economies of scale. NOSC has assisted the development of 7 block farms totaling 90 Has in 7 villages with a total of 189 farmers, while 5 medium-sized farms are professionally managed.
Although the Njombe Project is just underway, the model provides an innovative means of getting new farmer entrants into the tea sector, and providing them with credit and professional services to overcome the barriers to entry. The model has been recognised by the Prime Minister of Tanzania, and has already been replicated by other tea multinationals in Rwanda.
Njombe in numbers
The number of tea seedlings planted, making it the largest tea nursery in Africa.
The number of farmers who will benefit from NOSC interventions.