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On Mambilla Plateau, Africa’s Biggest Tea Farm

On Mambilla Plateau, Africa’s Biggest Tea Farm

Otosirieze Obi-Young
On Mambilla Plateau, Africa’s Biggest Tea Farm
A tea farm. Credit: Mambilatea.org.

Two days away from the Nigerian capital Abuja, on the cold Mambilla Plateau, is the village of Kakara in Sardauna Local Government Area, Taraba State. It is the location of Africa’s biggest tea farm and West Africa’s only highland tea plantation.

The tea plantation was formalized in the 1970s when the Chinese tea brand Bohea secured 400 hectares of irrigated land. It became Nigeria’s first commercial tea project.

In 1993, the European Economic Commission (EEC) became involved, distributing tea seeds and introducing tea production to 27 villages, expanding outgrowers from 150 to 2,700. The EEC terminated the programme in 1995 when the international community sanctioned then Head of State Sani Abacha. The effect was immediate: harvest periods increased from two to 20 days, at which time it became tough to find a market for the tea; this led to many farmers deserting the tea business, or intercropping with food crops. That slump has continued to the present day.

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, On Mambilla Plateau, Africa’s Biggest Tea Farm
Okposi Salt Lake. Credit: National Daily NG.

The best-known product from the farms is Highland Tea, also known as Mambilla Tea, made by Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited (MBNL). The company’s 615 hectares of estate includes a processing factory with a production capacity of 1.6 million kilograms of tea. Across the villages on the plateau, the company has 2,000 outgrowers on 6,000 farms—a total of 800 hectares. It has plans to begin production of green tea in packs rather than just porches.

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