Since 2010, CCL has been supporting more than 1000 tea producer families from Nyot Ou district in the province of Phongsaly. The tea value chain has quickly been identified as a major economic opportunity for the Yao families in that area. As a first step, CCL has worked with smallholder farmers to enhance their skills and techniques for nurseries, growing and sustainable harvesting of wild tea.

In Nyot Ou, the northernmost district of the province of Phongsaly, Yao smallholder farmers produce Sheng Pu-er tea from leaves harvested in communal forests and natural (“shengtai”) gardens. Renowned for its terroir in close proximity to the famous tea region of Yiwu, Nyot Ou attracts buyers and traders from all over Yunnan province and beyond. Thanks to a boom of Pu-er on Chinese markets and increasing demand in the West, prices at farmer-gate have been multiplied per ten over the last decade. Today, many tea farmers have decent incomes. The prices they can obtain for their tea depends to a large extent on their processing skills and on their connections to the market. Most farmers are familiar with the basic processing steps – withering, panning or “kill-green” (“shaqing”), rolling and sundrying – however, many of them still lack background knowledge and manual skill. The variability of many factors can be underestimated: How to adapt the withering step to the leaf characteristics and weather? How to manage the water content in the tea leaf and panning duration? What is the ideal wok temperature to start the process, and why? On the other hand, farmers often still have little knowledge about the market and value chains of their product. The majority of people do not know the final prices of tea in retail markets or the current expectations and requirements of the buyers and consumers, and how to meet them.

Over 1000 tea producer families supported since 2010

Within the rural ethnic communities targeted by the action, common land, whether agricultural or forestry, constitutes the bulk of the family’s land resources. Access to this common land ensures both their economic security – notably through the collection of forest tea, as well as food and nutrition.

CCL’s current actions aim to extend support on production to upland families recently engaged in the tea sector, while continuing monitoring in villages already supported and relying on model peasants trained to disseminate good practices and innovations.

The lack of local structures to support marketing and export is a major obstacle to the sustainable development of the sector. Most producer families rely on a few local traders to sell their tea. Without sustained demand, sales opportunities for farmers could be drastically reduced. The diversification of commercial outlets via a formal channel can allow access to this sustainability while potentially strengthening the gross added value of the producer. After discussions with producers, local authorities and many experts, the CCL has decided to support producers by setting up an appropriate administrative entity to develop a Nyot Ou Tea brand and (i) increase the sense of identity, professionalism and market access, (ii) facilitate exports and ensure fluid logistics, (iii) support packaging and marketing activities and customer relations.