It feels disingenuous to write a blog post urging people to buy tea when, in fact, we should be urging people to buy less—of everything. But the thing is, environmental sustainability in Kisii, Kenya, is inextricably linked to economic stability. And Ajiri, which means "to employ" in Swahili, provides economic stability for 60 women.
When companies speak of environmental sustainability, we often lean toward the process (made from recycled materials, compostable, minimal use of plastic, etc.). Ajiri is committed to minimizing our footprint with our thoughtful packaging, but that's not where the real magic is. Because packaging is, after all, just packaging. It is just stuff created out there in the world. The real magic to environmental protectionism is community action. And that comes when a community is educated. Education, in a place like Kisii, only comes about through opportunity—another way of saying having enough money to send your kids to school.
Ajiri has been providing employment for women for over 13 years now. The women handcraft the packaging for the tea and coffee boxes using dried bark from banana trees. With their earnings, the women have paid for their children to go to school. These children are now the adults in the community. Whereas before members of the community were cutting down trees near the river for firewood, these young adults have encouraged their parents to cook with gas (and the parents now have the means to pay for gas stoves).* This means the watershed is more protected, the land around them is less susceptible to landslides and erosion. Of course, this is one small example. But I still think this one small example is worth something.
The effects of climate change are being felt the most by women. It is women, after all, who are walking to the river to collect water. It is women who are providing the majority of agricultural labor in Kenya. I just returned from Kenya where it was considered "rainy season." It didn't rain once in 10 days.
Where are the voices of these women in the fight of environmental justice? Where are the voices of farmers? All we hear are the voices of companies and politicians and the insidious roar of Jeff Bezos's launch to space. The fight toward environmental justice is not having something to say (because the women have a lot to say about the changing environment), but it is knowing how to say it. The Ajiri women and their children now have smartphones.
They are starting to band together and speak up to local politicians. We will soon hear their voices. But of course, we need to know how to listen.
Thank you all for listening.
Happy Earth Day,
Kate, Sara, Ann, Regina, and Difna.
Love is the answer in the form of EDUCATION!!! I LOVE AJIRI (and their tea!)! All love to all of u Ajirians on both continents. your teas and artwork are incredible. i look forward everyday to several cups and i tell all my friends to join in to get their supply. bestest to all of u!
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