The Malawi Tea 2020 programme was launched in 2015. When it launched it was one of the first country-level initiatives aimed at securing a living wage for agricultural workers. An unprecedented collaboration that received buy-in from the tea industry’s entire supply chain, the programme included more than 30 organizations and has worked to achieve a profitable sector where workers earn a living wage and smallholders a living income.
Together, the coalition members developed a Roadmap for Malawi Tea 2020, and agreed on a five-year timeline to make an impact. The programme also looks at wider implications – improved working conditions (nutrition and conditions of employment) and environmental management, making the programme even more unique than most in its holistic approach.
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:
Malawi is the top three tea producer in Africa. Malawi is also one of the world’s poorest countries. When the programme started, 62% of Malawians lived below the World Bank’s extreme poverty line, and there was 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 was used: Living wage for rural Malawi with focus on tea growing area of Southern Malawi, Richard and Martha Anker (2014).