A Colonial Commodity? British Representations of Kenyan Tea Production and Its Impacts


The commercial production of tea in Kenya traces back to 1930s, a few decades after the crop was introduced to the country by a British settler named G.W.L. Canine in 1903, going on to become one of Kenya’s most important cash crops. At first, the colonial government restricted the growth of tea, granting production rights exclusively to large-scale settler farmers and multinationals. After Kenya attained independence from Great Britain in 1963, cultivation of tea by local farmers was legalized by the new government. Since then, the area under tea production has remarkably increased; The sector plays a significant role in Kenya’s economy, positioning the country as the biggest exporter of black tea, with less than 10% of its total production consumed locally.

As a result, my exhibit will examine the impact of tea production in Kenya, especially in the period before and after the country achieved its independence from the Great Britain. Major tea players such as Brooke Bond Limited and Finlays tea company will factor in my examination of how foreign owned companies represented Kenyan tea in Britain. On the other hand, a focus on the role of small scale tea farmers in Kenya's tea sector will help contextualize the long-term issues that continue to benefit foreign tea plantations at the expense of poor local farmers ever after Kenya attained independence, and up through the present day. 


Kelvin Serem

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