Sustainable use of water resourcesConservation of water sources in production areas

Water resource issues in the upstream of the value chain

As a first step in solving water issues in areas where we source our agricultural raw materials in the upstream of our value chain, the Kirin Group began water source conservation activities at Sri Lankan tea farms in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in difficulties for our activities, but as of the end of 2021, we had completed conservation activities at 12 sites, and we are currently implementing conservation activities at two more sites. We have provided group training to 1,750 people living near water sources in order to support understanding of the necessity of conserving water sources. In addition, we have distributed pamphlets on water conservation and basin protection to 15,000 residents as part of measures to raise awareness.

Conservation activities for water sources on tea farms

In a 2017 assessment of water risks and water stress in the value chain and scenario analysis in 2019, it was evident that climate change will cause water stress and flood risks to increase in areas producing agricultural raw materials in the future. It is not easy to respond to water resource issues in the upstream of the value chain. Therefore, the Kirin Group decided to start addressing this issue with Sri Lanka, where we have been providing assistance for obtaining sustainable tea farm certification, and where we have developed strong partnerships with local tea farms and NGOs. As such, we are working to accumulate knowledge in this area.
At the tea farms in the Sri Lankan highlands, there are many areas with tea trees on steep slopes. In such places, it is said that the level of water recharge is not high because even if it rains, the rainwater flows down the slope. In places with good conditions such as strata, however, rainwater penetrates into the ground and gushes out as springs in certain places in tea farms. These places are known as micro watersheds. Micro watersheds on tea farms can be found in the highlands of central Sri Lanka, and, in almost all cases, they are headstreams of rivers flowing through coastal cities. For this reason, while they occupy only a tiny area, they are very precious water sources.
In our yearly efforts to engage with local farms managers, we learned that although the Sri Lankan government went as far as mapping micro watersheds in order to support understanding of their importance and make them easier to conserve and manage, these efforts were held up owing to a lack of funds. Therefore, in order to further enhance the sustainability of tea farms whose acquisition of certification we supported and the surrounding areas, we began activities to conserve water sources at farms in 2018.
These activities involve fencing off micro watersheds of the farms so that they are not used for other purposes, and planting unique regional native species around them. This provides a diversity of vegetation at tea farms, which have a single crop, and prevents soil from flowing down the mountain slope into water sources as a result of torrential rain, etc.

  • Mechanism of micro watersheds

  • Number of areas where water sources were conserved among Sri Lankan tea farms

  • Tea bushes planted on steep slopes

  • A fenced off micro watershed

  • A stream in a tea farm

Education programs to teach the value of water

Owing to the history of large Sri Lankan tea farms, going back to when the plantations were first established under British colonial rule, many people still live on the vast tea farms who make a living by doing work that has nothing to do with the tea farms themselves. These residents have been generally allowed to use empty plots that are not being used to grow tea for their living. For this reason, there have been cases in which these residents, not recognizing the micro watersheds as water sources, have converted those areas to vegetable patches or grazing pasture, or have cut down the trees around the watersheds for firewood. In order to protect the water sources, instead of merely fencing off the micro watersheds to keep the tea farms’ residents away, there is a need to educate them that those areas are water sources that we should protect.
The Kirin Group is conducting an education program to teach residents living near target water sources about such matters as the importance of water and the functions of micro watersheds. At some farms, we are also working to incorporate our educational programs as part of the curriculums of day care centers and elementary schools attended by the children of tea pickers, etc.

  • Flyer for water education

Contribution to water-efficient agriculture

The bag-type culture technology that Kirin has developed for the practical application of mass plant propagation technology is expected to be used in water-efficient agriculture.
With the resin film-based bag-type culture vessel system, we allow plants to grow by aerating a solution containing nutrients necessary for plant growth inside a small bag, making it easier to use water more effectively than in soil cultivation. This system may have applications in cultivation in dry areas, for example.

*The above information is reprinted from the Kirin Group Environmental Report 2022 and is current as of June 30, 2022.