The Soko Huru trade: network building, informal contracts and compliance failure in the marketing of green leaf tea in rural Kenya
This paper is based on the premise that although liberalisation is assumed to result in market friendly incentives that can encourage the accumulation of capital and more efficient allocation of resources, the interplay between market forces, government policy and social processes continues to shape and re-shape the tea commodity market. In the midst of what seems like expanded choices are struggles and uncertainties, some of which determine what the actors concerned come to count as success or failure. The paper is an attempt to understand the smallholder tea commodity market from the point of view of the Soko Huru trade. More specifically, the paper looks at how the Soko Huru trade is organised, the forces that direct and influence the buying and selling of green leaf, the resultant formal and informal linkages, and how these structures affect the role of tea as a source of livelihood among rural households. Attention is paid to the written and unwritten rules that govern the linkages that Soko Huru traders maintain with tea growers and various categories of end users, and how these come to influence the tea commodity market and the strategies that traders apply so as to protect their interests.