Women in Coffee – Meet Martha Mhango

We all love our morning coffee. But less of us know how it got from the bean into our cups. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about exactly where some of your favourite fair trade coffees originate, join us on a Meet the People Tour to northern Malawi, to meet some of the farmers who harvest the coffee beans for Traidcraft’s delicious coffee.

Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union Limited (MCPCU), spread across Northern and Central Malawi, have been harvesting coffee since the early 1930s. Pioneering in its field, Mzuzu’s focus is on its farmers and sustainability. Mzuzu farmers are offered training on sustainable agricultural techniques, quality and processing, and are even provided with microfinance loans to buy seeds. Mzuzu also owns a coffee shop, Coffee Den, which provides an internet service and sells coffee and souvenirs, and Coffee Suites, a guest house in town which brings a lot of business to the area.

Unlike any other cooperative in the area, Mzuzu also runs a “Women in Coffee” programme, implemented to empower women farmers and increase their personal income by selling coffee grown by women to buyers all over the world. As a result, there are over 650 female farmers across the six cooperatives! This is drastically more than regular plantations in the area, who aren’t part of the Union.

It is at this point in our journey that we head to the hills of Malawi’s Rumphi district, to meet Martha Mhango. Martha started out as a coffee farmer in Phoka Coffee Cooperative, one of the Union’s six cooperatives, and since 2016 has been the elected Chairperson of Nkhonthwa zone. 

coffee-quote-1Martha is a huge advocate for the Union’s “Women in Coffee” programme, as she has been able to provide for her family in a similar way that a man in her community can. 

The fair trade premium that women like Martha receive is split into two. Half goes to the ‘zone’ for community development, for the likes of coffee washing stations, bridges and teachers’ houses, and the other half goes directly to the farmer herself.

coffee-quote-2

Another great thing about the Mzuzu’s is that the waste biproducts from the coffee production comes back to the farmers to use as a fertiliser, minimising waste and helping increase yields in following years. 

With the help of the Union, Martha’s farm’s vision for the future is to have solar energy and water in their primary school, and to develop netball and football facilities.

If you’re inspired by Martha’s story and would like the opportunity to meet farmers just like her, and hear their stories for yourself, why not secure your place on our Meet the People tour in Malawi? Alternatively, you can get involved with people like Martha from the comfort of your own front room, by choosing Traidcraft’s Fairtrade coffee, cultivated by farmers who are treated with respect and paid fairly, throughout the developing world.

Celebrating a fairer future for South Africa

Our journey in South Africa is set against a backdrop of truly stunning scenery, but this trip is far more than just seeing the sights. As we discover the lingering impacts of years of apartheid, we celebrate the role of fair trade as the country works towards a more equal and fairer future.

Table MountainOur 14 day tour begins with a memorable visit to Robben Island, one of the Cape Peninsula’s World Heritage Sites, to visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was kept for 18 years. During the visit we understand why the island is described as the unique symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice, as our guide for the afternoon, a former political prisoner, provides a personal insight into what life was like in the prison.

In the Northern Cape we visit Eksteenskuil Agricultural Co-operative (EAC). Traidcraft’s relationship with EAC began in 1995 and with their support they became the world’s first supplier of Fairtrade raisins.  We also meet the growers at Heiveld Co-operative, an organic tea co-operatives. At Heiveld, the Rooibos tea is grown and processed in the traditional way with minimal use of machinery and is harvested carefully by hand.

Raisin FarmersAlong the way we also visit the botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch with its unique flora, the famous wine producing area around Stellenbosch, and of course, Table Mountain itself. A visit with a local guide to a township and a children’s HIV/AIDS project also highlight the realities of some people’s lives in this part of South Africa.

PellaThis holiday is perfect for anyone interested in fair trade looking for an opportunity to meet the people behind the products and see the impact of fair trade. For more information on our holiday click here or contact us in the office on 0191 2651110 or at info@skedaddle.com 

Cocoa, Bananas and Palm Oil…

Meet the People travellers Arton and Christine tell us about their experiences during our wonderful tour in Ghana.

Ten degrees in Lancaster in mid November seems very cold a day after returning from Ghana where the midday maximum was over 30 degrees. We were part of a group of twelve people whose interest in fair trade had caused us all to use our holiday money on a Traidcraft  ‘Meet the People’ tour to Ghana visiting  growers of fair trade cocoa, palm oil and bananas.

Divine Chocolate

Within twenty four hours after landing in Manchester we were in the Parish Hall setting out the Traidcraft stall which sold cleaning products that used palm oil, and Divine chocolate made from the cocoa grown in the areas that we had just visited. The contrast in weather could be felt but the direct link between us and the producers also felt very strong.

The fortnight included visits to cultural centres and Kakum National Park, a cruise on Lake Volta, and an exposure to the barbarities of slavery – inland at Slave River, and on the coast at Elmina Castle where, branded and shackled, slaves were forcibly embarked on ships for their transatlantic voyage. These visits are all part of any tourist holiday in Ghana, but our main purpose was to meet people at work on their farms and processing plants, in towns and in villages to see how fair trade was helping them improve their quality of life.

Ghana Beach

The cocoa farmers we visited in Amankwaatia are all members of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative which has over 80,000 members and produces some 6% of Ghana’s cocoa. The farmers’ smallholdings are about eight acres (3.24ha) in area with about half growing food crops for subsistence and local markets, and the other half growing cocoa trees. When asked what was the main benefit of belonging to a Fairtrade group the answer was that they had been able to build  a school in the village so the children did not have to walk a long way to school.

Serendipalm bags

In the different areas that we visited we saw other schools built from the Fairtrade Premium which is an additional sum of money on top of the minimum price of the product. It is the people themselves who decide how this premium will be spent. There were also new boreholes providing the clean water which was head-loaded in large metal bowls (wider than the shoulders of the teenager carrying them) from the pump back to their home. Improvements to clinics and health services in the villages were other areas chosen for communal benefit.

The palm oil producers farmed in a similar co-operative structure to Kuapa Kokoo and we saw the processing plant on a dark wet evening with smoke and steam from the wood-fired boilers providing scenes reminiscent of a stage-set for Hades.

VREL

We also saw banana processing, and a secondary school built with Fairtrade premium funds. The Fairtade banana growing is large scale with four sites cultivating 600 acres (approx 250ha) of bananas and producing 5000 to 6000 tons of bananas a year. The growing and processing is meticulous with the workers even having pillows on their shoulders so as not to bruise the stems  of bananas as they carry them to the conveyor system.

Trashy Bags Sewing

Other producers we visited included Trashy Bags, who made all sorts of goods from plastic bags, Cedi beads making bangles and necklaces from local materials, and Global Mamas which sells beautiful printed materials and clothing produced by women in their own homes.

So back to the Autumn Sale where by buying fairly traded products from the Craft Aid or ESME stalls (over £700 was taken on the day) you will have helped people much less well off than we are. By continuing to use fair trade goods in your regular shopping throughout the year you can make a real difference to people’s lives.

For more information on our tour to Ghana click here, call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com