Tea farming: Major potential for analog forestry
Analog forestry is a methodology that is highly applicable for smallholder tea farmers in Cameroon. CENDEP, an IAFN partner in Cameroon recently held a series of workshops on analog forestry and related topics with a group of farmers in Ndu, in the North West Region of Cameroon, where smallholder tea producers have come together to form a cooperative society.
The overall goal of the workshops was to introduce these farmers to the analog forestry method and provide ongoing support over a period of several months to assist them in adopting analog forestry practices in their tea farms. This was primarily done through a series of workshops between November 2014 and February 2015. Not only did these workshops serve as an important platform for creating awareness of these methods, they also helped to bring producers together and strengthen the cooperative bond and knowledge sharing among the group.
The first workshop centred on an introduction to analog forestry and the tea processing cycle. In addition to a technical discussion of analog forestry and the idea of mimicking forest structure within a production system, the participants also took practical steps such as discussing species that could be used on tea farms in their regions. Participants also discussed the cycle of activities on their farms throughout the year, and broke off into groups to discuss how to coordinate local farm trainings and outreach.
The second and third workshops had a markedly practical approach, focusing on nursery management, seed saving, and compost practices on the tea farms. While participants were already quite familiar with nursery management, they reviewed best practices for collecting seeds from various species at different times of year. Another major activity was the use of A-frames to measure contour lines. Planting trees along contour lines is important for reducing erosion and improving soil fertility.
Another theme that was discussed throughout the three workshops was how to market and process tea, with a special focus on how to reach value-added markets through organic production. The role of the Rich Forests group was discussed as a way to make connections between producer groups and potential market partners. Forest Garden Product certification was another solution that was identified for reaching value-added markets for tea. Participatory Guarantee Systems, which is a way for producers to obtain the benefits of third-party certification without the sometimes prohibitive costs of certification and outside inspections was discussed as well.
These workshops also contributed to the cooperation between local tea farmers, which has benefits for both improving farming practices as well for taking action together to benefit from local initiatives. One such activity is support for tea farmers in the region for small-scale tea farmers from the European Union. The EU program has already supported the creation of a tea processing unit. The increased cooperation between tea farmers of the region will allow them to take full advantage of this new processing unit for their marketing activities, while they also implement analog forestry activities on their farms.