The Issue Of Pollution In Tea Plantations And Solutions To It

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In the current world, there exist several cash crops that are cultivated in large scale plantations and exported to countries that are less donated. One of them is tea, and with time, it has raised issues regarding the use of pesticides and fertilizers. These have been known to lead to pollution even though farmers have been urged to be vigilant in ensuring that they use biological means of killing pests. Tea is usually planted in large scale farms and, thus, requiring more capital to pay for labor. This essay will indicate how the issue of pollution in tea plantation can be tackled through the use of biological approaches and practicing proper planting techniques.

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To start with, since tea is planted on a large scale, a lot of fertilizers are used, and this affects the ecosystem. Some of the fertilizers that are employed in tea plantations contain calcium and magnesium as well as Sulphur among others. Calcium and magnesium are used to maintain soil pH between 4.5 and 5.5. This helps in preserving fertility even after many years of using the same land for tea plantation. However, it is argued that with land rotation, it would be easier to deal with the issue of soil erosion and degradation of fertility. Even so, this might be faced with more challenges as tea plants take up to three years to be mature. This means that the farmer will have to wait for that long and an additional two years of yielding profits and getting the value for money before changing to another crop. Regarding fertilizers, some of the farmers use foliar sprays that contain magnesium sulfate. However, excessive use would endanger the environment since the chemicals would get into the soil and can easily be swept away to the nearby water bodies after which they are taken in by fish and other aquatic organisms.

Furthermore, most of the practices involved in tea plantations are labor-intensive starting from the planting to plucking and transportation of the same. Research shows that “Plants are forced to remain in the vegetative stage as bushes by following cultural practices like centering, pruning, and plucking, and they are harvested generally from the second year onward at regular intervals of 7–10 days in the tropics and subtropics, with up to 60 years as the economic lifespan”. However, in the cultivation stage, most of the farmers use a high amount of money since the expected profits are high. As indicated by Munasinghe (2017), “Labor use is highest in the labor-intensive cultivation stage. Costs are also highest in the cultivation stage/purchase of tea leaves, due to the high labor use.” In this regard, to venture into tea farming, one has to have a healthy financial muscle to reap from the business. This might force farmers to join hands to be successful in the venture through the setting up of tea estates.

Despite the issues related to environmental pollution and soil erosion in tea farming, it is claimed that proper practices can be employed. Regarding the issue of soil erosion, it is the work of the farmers to be responsible for cultivation practices. Some of the best techniques to use are gabions. However, this might not be as successful as expected as the soil might be protected from being swept away but still lose its fertility. Thus, the changes shall be effected even in the type of fertilizers that are being used. When planting tea, for example, the soil is dug out and this might affect the future use of the same. As indicated by Chiti et al. (2018), “Due to the soil erosion intervention, soil pits are formed, which are subsequently filled up with excavated soil.” This means that the continued plantation of tea might affect the soil, but these issues can be dealt with.

In most of the tea planting countries, there exist several professionals who give pieces of advice to farmers regarding how they should capitalize on the high amounts of rainfall in their regions as well as the rich soil. In some cases, farmers might have little or no formal education, which makes it hard for them to understand how to enrich the soil through contemporary means, unlike the traditional ones. The fact that the plantations are an extensive call for a qualified individual to ensure that no mistake is made which could have, instead, become harmful in the end. The experts would also come up with evaluations that would determine the effect of any move by the farmers. According to Su et al. (2017), “Monetary approach is finally employed to evaluate the trade-off between economic benefit and ecological cost associated with the growing age of tea plantations.” In this regard, although tea plants might be profitable, the danger associated with the pesticides and fertilizers should be considered. This is because many farmers have mastered the art of taking advantage of their financial capabilities to release harmful chemicals to the environment.

After successfully cultivating tea in the designated areas, farmers are left with the task to market them in international markets. Usually, in developing countries, the states remain with the task to buy the tea leaves from the farmers at a reasonable price after which they market them to improve the welfare of the producers. However, to facilitate a conducive business environment, there is a need to get in touch with Fairtrade International, which is an organization that guarantees favorable trading conditions for producers in developing countries. Usually, in nations that grow tea, the association would negotiate for better prices for exports to give the farmers value for their money. After going through many challenges and spending a lot of money on buying fertilizers and paying for labor, the farmers are exploited by middlemen who have selfish interests without considering their welfare. Although governments might work hard to protect the welfare of these farmers, they might not reach out to all of them. However, the responsible institutions can build the needed infrastructure to facilitate the transportation of tea to the factories where they would undergo value addition before, they are being exported.

In conclusion, tea farming is a lucrative field even though it poses a danger to the environment as a result of pollution due to the fertilizers and pesticides used. However, some alternatives would assist farmers to fight this menace together with soil erosion. One of them is the building of gabions to curb soil erosion and turning to biological means of killing pests as the conventional ones release too many chemicals to the environment. The chemicals can be swept to water bodies, thus, posing danger to aquatic organisms. Furthermore, farmers need to liaise with Fairtrade International to help them in looking for viable markets for their products as the government might not meet their objectives.

01 February 2021

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