Rukuriri Tea Factory Company Ltd

Product focus: Tea
Location: Embu, Kenya

Type: Small producer – 9,000 farmers
Fairtrade certified since: 2008

Contact: Patrick Otieno –

Due to unpredictable climatic conditions and ongoing fluctuations of market prices, tea farmers at the Rukuriri Tea Factory became aware of the risks associated with over-dependence on their tea harvest. Management encouraged farmers to expand their revenue base by engaging in other income-generating projects. One of the most successful schemes has been the Artificial Insemination Project.

The AI Project came about when community members from nine buying centres were called for a meeting to discuss how to spend the Fairtrade Premium. With Kenya being the largest consumer of milk on the continent, they decided to improve their dairy animals, hence increasing milk production. After the farmers endorsed the proposal, the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock was consulted to find out the necessary requirements to kick-start the project. The setup process proved to be simple and the right equipment was bought, which included:

-          liquid nitrogen and a container for semen storage
-          semen for fertilisation
-          a pistolet, for inserting the semen into the cervix of the cow
-          plastic socks as gloves, to avoid contamination by the animal
-          scissors, to cut straws which contain semen
-          a thermometer, for measuring the temperature of the semen
-          a haversack, to carry all the required materials for insemination
-          a motorbike for the inseminator

With assistance from the Ministry of Livestock, they identified a professional inseminator, who is on stand-by 24 hours a day. The farmers are continually being trained to detect when an animal is in heat — as timing is essential for a successful insemination process. Farmers at Rukuriri have an advantage, since they buy quality seeds at subsidized rates.

Breakdown of equipment costs:

Item – Cost
Liquid nitrogen container – 318 USD
Pistolet – 35 USD
Thermometer – 10 USD
Haversack – 42 USD
Motorbike – 1260 USD
Semen – 720 USD
Liquid nitrogen (20 litres) – 47 USD (2.35 USD per litre)
Salary (inseminator) – 110 USD (per month)

The AI Project has so far been fruitful. 60% of Rukuriri’s farmers declare that their livelihood has improved through higher sales, generated from increased milk production. Some of the farmers even make more money in dairy than in tea farming. In the future, farmers at Rukuriri plan to further invest in animal treatment and to buy a milk cooler to store milk surpluses.