In drought-hit Kenya, many farmers have switched crops, from maize to tea trees. The tea tree, an Australian native that thrives in this semi-arid part of Kenya, produces branches from which tea oil can be extracted – an important ingredient for the cosmetics industry.
Many maize farmers have seen their crops suffer during many years of poor rains and high temperatures. Most farmers cannot afford to buy seeds for alternative crops that are better suited to drought, so keep planting maize. In Laikipia County, about 800 small-scale farmers were sold tea tree seedlings on credit by a company called Earthoil that also guaranteed to buy their harvest.
Each seedling cost 3.5 Kenyan shillings, or about 3 cents. Earthoil buys the branches for between 17 Kenyan shillings ($0.17) and 19 Kenyan shillings ($0.19) a kilogram. VOAnews reports that the tea tree oil is extracted at Earthoil’s local distillery and exported to British skin-care company The Body Shop.
Further reading on voanews.com