Discover Malawi, the warm heart of Africa

It’s for good reason that Malawi is often described as the warm heart of Africa, and the friendly welcomes and inspiring stories make for an unforgettable Meet the People holiday.

Our tour explores the north of the country where the land rises from the warm shores of Lake Malawi up into hills perfect for cultivating delicious coffee, and levels out at the Nyika plateau where we go in search of zebra, elephants and the elusive leopard!

Beautiful Views The first stop on our journey north gives us a delicious taste of what is to come as we settle down in the local café for a delicious mug of Mzuzu coffee. In the coming days we meet smallholder coffee farmers like Martha who shows with pride her plot of organic coffee bushes and explains how she cares for the plants and ensures that only the best quality cherries are taken for harvest.

As we travel from place to place, the team of local guides make every stop an experience as we shop at village stalls to stock up on essentials of fresh tomatoes and bananas and learn a few greetings along the way. You might even want to try your hand at making nsima using the traditional technique to pound the flour!

Malawi (16)[2]

No trip would be complete without taking time to enjoy Lake Malawi. Formed by a fault in the Great Rift Valley, the ancient lake is always a highlight. On the northern shores we join farmers as they gather their harvest of Kilombero rice. A speciality grain known throughout Malawi for its quality and taste, at this cooperative it holds a special significance as the fair price they receive is making schooling accessible for farming families and funding scholarships for children in the community.

KarongaIf you’ve been captured by the delicious aroma of Mzuzu coffee or want to see the rice harvest for yourself then join us in June as we travel to meet the people!

For more information about our holidays in Malawi and around the world visit: www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk email: info@skedaddle.com or call us on 0191 2651110.

Sunset over Lake Malawi

Why Buy Fairtrade? Christine reports from Ghana

Christine joined our Meet the People Tour to Ghana with Traidcraft in November 2017. Combining her tour with an opportunity to visit her church’s Twinning Partners, Christine shares her experiences of meeting Fairtrade producers.

Picture1I have bought Fairtrade products for some time, and was interested to see how Fairtrade goods are produced, and to learn more about what Fairtrade means for individual producers. My Ghanaian friend Rev Josephine Mate-Kole Ankrah was interested too, and as I was visiting her congregation in Ghana, I thought a Meet the People Tour would be a good opportunity for us to visit some Fairtrade producers.

First of all we visited a group of cocoa farmers whose produce is used to make Divine Chocolate. Not only are these farmers paid a fair price for their cocoa beans (as you probably already know), but they also receive a Fairtrade premium. It was the use they made of this premium that was of real interest to me.

Cocoa farmers live in very rural areas, and we travelled a few hours along bumpy and windy roads to meet with them where they live and work. Working as a cooperative group, the farmers come together to agree what they will do with their Fairtrade premium. Usually they save it until there is sufficient money to do something that will make a real difference to their community. Their first priority is to improve the education of their children, through enhancing the education provided by the government. They have erected a solar light at the entrance to the school and put solar panels on the roof so that education need not stop when daylight ends. Currently they are saving to build a clinic and a house for a nurse, as their nearest clinic is a two hour drive away.

Divine ChocolateWe saw the current crop of cocoa beans drying in the sun ready to be packed into bags and sent on for processing (processing into chocolate that the farmers have never tasted!). They took us to visit one of the farms where we are able to harvest a pod from the tree, and to see how they work with their trees and crops.

One of the other organisations we visited was Global Mamas which concentrates on enhancing the lives of women in the community by providing them with training and opportunities for meaningful and sustainable livelihoods. They also invest money in business development, education, health, and life skills training. During our time with them we spent an afternoon cooking Ghanaian food and a morning making a batik tablecloth.

Ghana BatikThis is only a fraction of what we were able to see and experience during the 10 days of our Fairtrade experience. In returning to the question “why buy Fairtrade goods?”, after my visit I would say: to give individuals and communities the respect and dignity of a fair price for their products, which leads to life changing opportunities.

Many thanks to The Church of Scotland and to Christine Osman for sharing this article with us.

For more information on our trips to Ghana please call us on 0191 2651110, email us at info@skedaddle.com, or visit www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk/ghana

Ghana Top 9

Meeting Inspiring Communities in Peru

Exploring a new culture through the stunning sights, captivating history and delicious food all makes for a great holiday, but it’s meeting the people that takes our experience of Peru to a whole new level.

Our warm welcome starts with the greeting from Yannina at Manos Amigas. At their ceramics workshop in Lima we see beautiful figures being created and painted with intricate detail and meet the skilled people making them.

Peru Turumaki_craft_group

Traidcraft’s joyful nativity set is made by artisans working with Manos Amigas and it’s a great time to share stories of how these pieces are treasured by families back home. There’s a great sense of pride in making something that’s to be so loved by people on the other side of the world.

Whilst no trip to Peru would be complete without an opportunity to explore the spectacular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu and in the Sacred Valley, it’s combining these with visits to communities that makes for a really special trip. Following a fantastic visit to the quinoa farmers at Coopain, we make our second visit to Manos Amigas. A world away from bustling Lima, this visit is to a Collasuyo community high in the altiplano.

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With a backdrop of mountains and flamingos feeding in the distance, we meet women spinning and knitting alpaca fibre into the black, white and grey scarves we recognise from the Traidcraft range. Life here is very different to home, but the connection through fair trade is strong, and with a greeting of local music and dancing it’s a fitting celebration to end this journey.

Peru

Come and join us in Peru! To to find out more about our holidays visit: meetthepeopletours.co.uk/peru email: info@skedaddle.com or call us on 0191 2651110

Honey, Blueberries & Dreams: The life of a Chilean Beekeeper

Under different circumstances Chino Henriquez would be described as a natural leader; however, this would conflict with the ethos of the co-operative of which he is General Manager. Instead, Chino sees himself as a cog in a system, incapable of completing his work without his team to back him up.

Founder of the Chilean honey and blueberry co-operative Apicoop, located in the city of Paillaco, Chino has steered the organization through some life-changing challenges, like diversification from honey into blueberries and even natural disaster. Recently Calbuco volcano erupted and wiped out a substantial amount of their crop, and could have been fatal to so many of the bees they so lovingly nurture. Sadly this latest natural disaster is not an isolated incident; Apicoop workers face constant adversity with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Hardships For Agriculture In Chile

Chino faces these hardships head on, explaining that it’s simply part of local life. Yes, they lost 5,000 hives in the disaster. The fact that they’re a co-operative, though, means they don’t just rely on one area for production.

With 28 permanent employees and 400 seasonal blueberry pickers to oversee, there is no time for sadness or hesitancy. Instead, Chino notes a need for hard work and perseverance to get things back in order. First of all, he asks co-op members in turmoil how he can help so they don’t feel alone. No matter the loss — bees, hives, honey — the co-op creates a plan for rejuvenation. Chino found one solution was to pay beekeepers in advance for the next year’s crop.

“They belong to a family,” Chino says. “There is no need for them to feel alone.”

To be honest, the whole “creating a plan” aspect wasn’t so easy during the recent volcanic eruption. Within four hours the hives and surrounding landscape were covered in hot ash. Amazingly, though, the hives that were dug out still had living bees.

Chino believes the miracle has to with the ash, explaining, “It was like a stack of small marbles. This meant there was air between one marble and another, so no lack of oxygen. If the ash had been denser they wouldn’t have survived.”

The hives were moved to a neighboring area and are now fully recovered, though it will take far longer for the landscape to return to its former state — 10 years at the very least. Sure, in a couple of centuries that area will be highly fertile again; but in the short term Chino and his team will focus on getting trees growing again.

bees

Making Dreams Come True

Apicoop farmers diversified into blueberry production almost a decade ago, financed by a UK organization called Shared Interest. Another loan followed to buy machinery to help with packaging.

And Chino’s dreams don’t just stop there. Along with honey and blueberries, he wants a brand new purpose-built facility stretching over 4,000 square meters. Designed by the workers themselves, Chino explains how it has been a labor of love.

“Everybody in the co-op had a say in this project; every single department was consulted in the design of the building which is due to open in October 2017.”

In the meantime, Chino is keen to let Shared Interest investors in the UK know their support really is changing lives. He concludes, “Please do trust that you are directly supporting development in different parts of the world, in areas that need it even more than ours. After all, the dreams of an entire community may never see fruition just because of a lack of funds. Thanks to Shared Interest, we can work together to create livelihoods and make dreams a reality all over the world.”

blueberries

Get Involved

If you live in the United Kingdom and would like to become an investor in Shared Interest, please click here to find out more.

Want to learn more about the life of a beekeeper and blueberry farmer? You can visit Chino’s community on our Meet the People Tour to Chile

Highlights of the tour include:
– A glass of local beer in Valdivia made with honey from Apicoop.
– A tour of Santiago giving insight into General Pinochet’s regime.
– Heading to the district of Paillaco to see Apicoop again, this time to learn about their production of blueberries, which can be found in Traidcraft’s GeoBars. You will spend a little time hearing about the organization of the co-operative before meeting some of the workers who process Apicoop’s blueberries.

It’s a cultural experience not to be missed, especially as it benefits the community you’re visiting.

Meet the People Chile Group

By Stina Porter of Shared Interest Society