Ahmad Tea funds a second scholarship with the University of Bristol PhD

We are delighted to announce that we are strengthening our partnership with the University of Bristol through the funding of a second scholarship. The scholarship will fund a Sri Lankan student to undertake a PhD in Bristol, UK, working primarily with Professor Alistair Hetherington, an internationally renowned botany expert with a focus on water efficiency in leaves.

The PhD researcher will work in collaboration with the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, (where we also have a philanthropic partnership), and with the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka. This is an exciting project for us, the conclusions from the research have huge potential to benefit the whole tea industry as we confront the realities of climate change.

The primary aim of the research project is to identify tea varieties that are best suited to thrive in the sorts of environmental conditions we now expect to see as a result of climate change. The tea crop requires well-drained soil, and in a country like Sri Lanka, which is experiencing increased drought because of climate change, and therefore reduced water availability. it’s a huge threat to the industry.

The research will be focused on identifying tea cultivars that use water particularly efficiently, and therefore have a greater tolerance for drought. The PhD student will work to grow varieties supplied by the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka, a long-standing University partner, and then assess those varieties for their suitability for drought, as well as for commercial factors such as yield and flavour. The collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is very important to the scholarship as they have a huge collection of tea cultivars.

The research is critical, countries like Sri Lanka in the Global South are already experiencing the profound impact of the climate crisis, and the University of Bristol is leading the way in research that delivers real-world solutions that matter right now.

“There’s so much about this project that reflects what matters to us at Ahmad Tea. As a family business, we want to protect the tea industry for generations to come. For the Sri Lankan PhD student this is an opportunity to train for a research career in a world-class scientific environment, and then hopefully bring that expertise and knowledge back to their home country.” Zahra Afshar, Head of Sustainability at Ahmad Tea.

The funded PhD is the second scholarship we have funded at the University of Bristol. In 2021 Ahmad Tea initiated funding for a five-year Medical School scholarship. The undergraduate Medicine scholarship covers tuition fees together with an annual living cost award. Our Ahmad Tea Scholar is now in the third year of their Medical degree, and alongside their studies, in which they are thriving, they are a mentor for school leavers thinking of applying to study Medicine.

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