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Sir Ian Wood to invest in Rwanda tea industry

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SCOTLAND’S second richest man has announced plans to invest a total of £7.5 million from his family’s charitable trust in the development of the tea industry in Rwanda in Sub Saharan Africa.

Sir Ian Wood, the recently retired head of energy giant the Wood Group, established the Wood Family Trust five years ago with an initial investment of £50 million.

But the trust’s annual report has revealed that, as a result of continued significant contributions by the oil tycoon, the funds in the trust now stand at approximately £114 million.

The trust, which also supports an initiative to develop tea farming by small holders in Tanzania., is already investing a total of £5.6 million on a six-year project, named Imbarutso, to aid 30,000 tea farmers in Rwanda by increasing their yield and income.

Bit Sir Ian, whose offer of a £50 million gift towards the transformation of Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens was rejected last year by the city council, has now revealed that the trust is investing another £7.5 million to buy the majority shareholding in two tea factories, on behalf of about 12,000 smallholder tea farmers in Rwanda

The Rwanda tea factory purchase is being made under a partnership project between the Wood Family Trust and the Gatsby Foundation, Lord David Sainsbury’s philanthropic foundation. The eventual aim of the scheme is to transfer ownership of the factories to the farmer shareholders at no cost.

Professional management will be provided by the Kenya Tea Development Agency with Sir Ian acting as chairman. Sir Ian commented “This represents an innovative philanthropic intervention which, if successful and further developed, could transform the viability of smallholder tea farmers in Rwanda and pave the way for more smallholder farmers owning their factories across the region, which in turn will substantially increase the incomes of the smallholder farmer tea producers and their families.

“Experience in East Africa indicates that where the smallholder farmers own their own factories, they receive approximately 70 per cent of the made tea price against only 25 to 30 per cent if they simply sell their product to an estate owned factory.”

The trust is also planning to continue to invest in the UK through its Youth and Philanthropy Initiative which will be delivered in 81 schools across ten local authorities in Scotland.

The annual report states: “Sir Ian Wood has continued to contribute significantly to trust funds and, with the trust having spent about £13 million to the end of 2012, our funds going into 2013 are approximately £114 million. “

The report also confirms that the Wood Family Trust spent a total of £1 million supporting the preparation and start up costs of the aborted city garden project and paying 80 per cent costs of the public referendum on the controversial scheme.

The report states: “Altogether, we will have spent more than £1 million and this is clearly a very disappointing outcome. However, the trustees judged this to be a high value transformational project for Aberdeen which would have facilitated the regeneration of its city centre with significant positive implications for the city’s long term economy. Thus the risk involved in providing the front end investigation and early design capital was deemed worthwhile.”

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