Conservation activities for water sources on raw material production areas
Conservation activities for water sources on tea farms
In the assessment of water risks in the value chain conducted in 2017 and the scenario analysis conducted in 2019, it has become evident that climate change will cause water stress and flood risks to increase in ingredient agricultural production regions in the future. However, it is not easy to respond to water resource issues in the upstream of the value chain. Therefore, the Kirin Group decided to address this issue beginning 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. In the tea farms on the Sri Lanka highlands, there are many areas where the tea bushes are planted on steep slopes. The rain, instead of penetrating into soil, flows straight down such slopes which as a result are believed to have lower water source cultivation function compared to that of the mountains and hills where native forest remains. However, in places with good conditions of soil beds and others, rain that falls near the summit and on the tea farm penetrates the ground, and numerous springs gush up in sections of the tea farm. 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 this initiative, five micro watersheds are selected from tea farms that we have assisted to obtain certification, and we will fence off these micro watersheds to protect them from being used for other purposes.Also, with the objective of bringing vegetationd diversity to single-cropping tea farms, we intend to plant native and endemic species of trees around the micro watersheds. This also serves to ensure that soil that flows down the slopes during torrential rainfall does not flow into the water shed.
Education programs for valuing water
Due to the history of Sri Lankan tea farms, going back to when the plantations were first established, many people still live on the vast tea farms who make a living by doing work that has nothing 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 water sources, which are called 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. Therefore, in order to protect the water sources, instead of merely fencing off to keep the tea farms’ residents away, there is a need to educate them that those areas are the water sources we should protect. In this initiative, we plan on conducting an education program to teach the approximately 15,000 residents living in the vicinity of these five water sources about the importance of water and about what kind of functions micro watersheds have. Furthermore, at some farms, efforts are made to incorporate our educational programs as part of the curriculums of day care centers and elementary schools attended by children of teapicking workers. In the future, we will also consider offering support on water risks to other raw material production regions.
Contribution to water-efficient agriculture
The bag-type culture vessel system technology Kirin developed for the practical application of mass plant propagation technology is expected to be applied to water-efficient agriculture.
With the resin film-based bag-type culture vessel system, a solution containing nutrients necessary for plant growth is aerated inside a small bag to allow plants to grow, making it easier to use water more effectively than in soil cultivation. Therefore, this system may be applied to cultivation in dry areas, for example. We will continue to apply this mass plant propagation technology as a means to solve various social issues.