Malawi Tea 2020

Revitalisation programme towards living wage

The Malawi Tea 2020 partnership brings together the organisations who can deliver the change to achieve a competitive and profitable Malawian tea industry. A sustainable industry must enable workers to earn a living wage and smallholders to earn a living income. 


Insights on the progress

In 2017, the second Annual Progress Meeting of the Malawi Tea 2020 programme was held in Blantyre. Over 40 national Malawian and international organisations from the tea supply chain came together to hear about progress of the programme during 2016-2017. For more insights on the progress and past year’s achievements see the plenary presentations of this Meeting.

Wages Committee update

The Wages Committee Progress Report provides an overview of the status of living wage achievements as of October 2017. It also indicates the gap between the living wage and the TAML base wage and between the living wage and the full wage package for typical tea workers.

Read the latest Wages Committee Report here


About the programme

The Malawi Tea 2020 programme is an ambitious, action-oriented coalition of Malawian tea producers, trade unions, the largest international tea buyers, relevant certification standards, NGOs and donors. Our goal is to achieve a competitive, profitable tea industry that can provide its workers with living wages, living incomes, and improved nutrition by 2020. The following 5 objectives have been set out to be achieved by 2020:

  • A more competitive and profitable industry that is paying a living wage to workers: working together to unlock orchestrated activities that will help Malawian tea producers and tea smallholders to become more profitable, by improving productivity and quality of Malawian tea.
  • A healthier, motivated, and productive workforce with greater opportunities for women: improve the quality of estate housing in line with the provisions of voluntary standards, and workers will receive more nutritious meals. Also, HR management will be improved and better opportunities for women are created.
  • An improved smallholder sector where farmers earn a living income: build the knowledge of smallholders through Farmer Field School methodologies, improve their business management and provide them with agro-inputs that will lead to more and better tea production and subsequently improve the livelihoods of Malawian smallholder farmers and their families.
  • An improved wage-setting process with greater work representation: change the wage-setting process, so worker and employers’ organisations will engage in a meaningful process of collective bargaining.
  • More sustainable energy use and an improved environment in tea growing areas

The Coalition

Malawi Tea 2020 is supported by companies all along the tea value chain. All participating producers are members of the Tea Association of Malawi (TAML). The main buyers of Malawi tea, including traders, packers, and retailers, are on board, and the main development organisations, certification schemes, civil society actors and trade unions in the sector are engaged in the programme. The partnership is endorsed by the Malawi government. The following organisations have committed to achieving a competitive, profitable Malawi tea industry where workers earn a living wage and smallholders a living income (in alphabetical order by category):

The programme will annually review its progress at the Annual Progress Meeting. This meeting will take place in Malawi. The first Annual Progress meeting was in October 2016, with the second one held in October 2017. The second progress report is available here

Tea and wages in Malawi

Malawi is Africa’s second largest tea producer, after Kenya. Malawi is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Some 62% of Malawians live below the World Bank’s extreme poverty line, and there is a lack of access to adequate nutrition for about 50% of the children. The tea industry is the largest formal sector employer in Malawi, employing 50,000 workers and providing livelihoods to more than 14,000 smallholders. Tea estate jobs are considered good jobs in Malawi, paying above the agricultural minimum wage of Malawi and providing a range of other benefits. Nevertheless, wages remain very low as outlined in the Oxfam/ETP/IDH research report: Understanding Wages in the Tea Industry, which covers key countries in Africa and Asia. As a benchmark for living wages in Malawi the Anker report will be used: Living wage for rural Malawi with focus on tea growing area of Southern Malawi, Richard and Martha Anker (2014).

Progress and more information

Every year the coalition will report jointly on steps taken towards the 2020 targets as defined in the roadmap. This is what we have achieved as of September 2017:

A more competitive and profitable industry that is paying a living wage to workers (includes developing an improved wage‐setting process with greater worker representation)

Under the Malawi 2020 programme, ongoing outreach to financiers and donors takes place to garner support for irrigation, replanting, and factory refurbishment projects with the aim of revitalizing the tea sector. In 2017, 2 deals of an estimated 3 MLN USD are in the pipeline and tea estates themselves have invested 6.3 MLN USD into wide-ranging projects, such as agricultural and infrastructural improvements or electricity generation.

A profitable estate sector must include viable options for sustainable procurement practices. Currently, such models have been developed and are under discussion with producers and buyers.

Living wages have moved closer through PAWUM and TAML capacity building to improve the wage setting process and worker representation. At the moment, the current prevailing wage, including cash and in-kind benefits, is MWK 1’753, and the living wage target is MWK 3’051. While a gap remains, 337 managers were trained in 2017 on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which lays the groundwork for an employer/worker dialogue on wage setting processes. 5’500 workers were reached in wage sensitization sessions.

A healthier, motivated, and productive workforce, with greater opportunities for women

Worker health has been addressed in 2017 through the implementation of a nutrition programme. 30’000 workers, out of a target of 50’000, currently receive fortified meals and all workers in the tea sector receive weekly portions of vegetables.

TAML also implemented a policy to curb sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. As a result, four estates have instituted gender committees, and related training sessions for supervisors, managers, and workers commenced in September 2017.

An improved smallholder sector where farmers earn a living income

Enabling a profitable smallholder sector is key to securing living incomes for workers. Capacity building efforts in 2017, notably developing skills in tea growing and business management practices, have progressed towards this goal. Multiple areas central to reaching the 2020 profitability targets have been affected. To date, 1’548 farmers have participated in 50 Farmer Field Schools, and field-level practices have been improving: 540’000 tea plants are being cultivated in 45 mini tea nurseries and 3’138 farmers are participating in a total of 173 Village Savings and Loans groups across the country.

The living income study has succeeded in establishing a living income benchmark with the preliminary result of 2’889 MWK (USD PPP 15.04) for the benchmark and 1’574 MWK (USD PPP 8.16) for current incomes.

More sustainable energy use and an improved environment in tea-growing areas

As of September 2017, seven factories have started collecting primary data on their energy efficiency and in June key stakeholders took part in a training on climate change impact mapping, although it is too early in the process to draw conclusions on their use of mapping to inform their business plans. Under a programme targeting woodlot production, 10 tree nurseries have been established. The roll-out of energy efficient stoves and solar lights has been pushed forward through the establishment of six cook stove production groups with 125 members, and the training of 140 sales agents.

For more insights on the progress and past year’s achievements see the plenary presentations of the second Annual Progress Meeting.

Revitalising the Malawian tea industry

For the benefit of everyone