Improving Incomes for Farmers in Malawi

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with 67% of the population living in what the World Bank defines as extreme poverty.

The context

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with 67% of the population living in what the World Bank defines as extreme poverty. Access to healthcare and education is limited, and only 66% of people over 15 years old can read. In Malawi there are over 16,500 small-scale tea farmers, many of whom need our support.

Credit: Andy Hall

Our aims

The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) runs a full range of interlinking programmes to help tea farmers in Malawi to transform their lives for the better.

Together with the Tea Association of Malawi (TAML), Oxfam, IDH - Sustainable Trade Initiative, and German Development Agency GIZ, we’re leading a partnership to deliver life-changing integrated programmes and a more competitive and sustainable industry.

Credit: Andy Hall

Our impact

By increasing farmers tea farming knowledge, incomes, ability to diversify and savings opportunities, as well as helping them develop improved business skills, we are improving their lives and longer-term prospects.

We’re also going further with our programmes. It’s not just effective farming approaches that are covered, we have expanded our programmes to train tea farmers on key life skills – such as how to eat more healthily and improve diets within their whole community.

This is fundamental in improving farmers and their families’ lives as malnutrition is such a serious concern in Malawi. The figures speak for themselves and affect young and old alike. For example, 60% of adults suffer from under-nutrition. The consequences of poor nutrition are numerous; including susceptibility to illness and limiting children’s performance at school. Poor health can also curb a farmer’s productivity, limiting how much they can earn.

Here are a few highlights of our work, which show how ETP is transforming farmers’ lives for the better.

Farmer Field Schools

ETP runs year-long training schools for farmers, where they learn how to improve their tea growing skills. The aim is for farmers to understand how to grow more, better quality tea so that they can earn more money. Farmers learn techniques to become more resilient to climate change and how to grow other crops, such as fruit and vegetables, which they can then sell on or eat themselves to improve their diets.

200To date ETP has set up over 200 Farmer Field Schools in Malawi

6,000Over 6000 farmers have been trained

Hear from Loveness

Community savings schemes

We have been working with tea farmers to develop and support a lending and saving scheme. This helps farmers, who are largely cut off from the banking sector, have access to badly needed credit. The schemes also function as a savings deposit, with money increasing over time.

Since 2016, we have set up saving schemes with nearly 5,000 farmers. Over three-quarters are women, and for many of them their confidence and opportunities have increased thanks to the economic empowerment the loans offer them.

As well as providing for pressing household needs, the loans and savings can be used to invest in new, entrepreneurial opportunities to make money.

Click here to learn more about our global work to build tea farmers and workers’ economic resilience through community lending and savings schemes.

Hear from Rhoda

Hear from Patrick

Entrepreneurship training

We offer hands on training for farmers on how to set up their own business. Entrepreneurship and innovation are encouraged, with training in financial management and other practical business skills.

Hear from Victoria

Hear from Rebecca

Inspired by the training she’s taken part in with ETP and the subsequent boost in income, Rebecca hopes to become a chef and open her own restaurant with the extra money she now makes from her tea crop.

She’s also learnt how to provide balanced meals for her family. She says:

“We learnt that to be healthy, you need to eat six food groups – protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, fruit, vegetables and fats. If you follow this diet, you will feel great. You’ll get vitamins from green vegetables, you won’t get anaemia and you’ll have more energy”.

Healthy diets

When offering tea farmers practical training, ETP also takes the opportunity to share information about healthy diets. Farmers develop the knowledge and skills to adopt a better diet and pass their own learning on to their children.

We’ve seen how this has greater reach than the immediate health benefits. Hear from ETP Programme Coordinator in Malawi, Mavuto Kambocholabanda, who explains how our nutrition work in the country is improving life for the whole family:

Hear from Edna

Hear from Annie

Find out more

To learn more about other key initiatives ETP runs in Malawi click here.

All of this work is part of a life-changing programme called the Malawi Tea 2020 programme, which is helping to create a more competitive and sustainable Malawian Tea industry, where workers earn a living wage and farmers a living income. You can find out more about this transformational initiative and who is involved here.