The Malawi Tea 2020 Programme makes steady progress

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 on October 11th, to hear about progress of the programme during 2016-2017.

The meeting was opened by Honorable Cecelia Chazama MP, Minister of Culture and Civic Education and the Principle Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Manpower Development.

The current living wage gap is 43%, as it was last year. Despite high inflation the living wage did not deteriorate. According to the Richard and Martha Anker led Wages Committee “The significant progress on wages from the start of the Malawi Tea 2020 Program was maintained in the face of a difficult macro environment for tea estates such as a constant USD exchange rate despite high inflation in Malawi. This meant that costs in Kwacha were rising while the currency in which tea is priced remained the same. Despite this, tea wages expressed in USD increased in the past year.”

A key activity this year was around the sustainable procurement practices, a process initiated by Oxfam and IDH to calculate the additional cost of paying workers a living wage and for this cost to be fairly shared across the tea value chain. To accommodate this calculation a unique price discovery model has been developed in partnership with Accenture Development Partnerships. Throughout the different stages of the development of this model key consultations with buyers and producers were made. Further discussions on how to finalise the development of the model and how to apply it in the Malawi tea trade are still ongoing.

A lot of progress was made around the other activities of Malawi Tea 2020 such as investments by estates, work around energy efficiency and environment and farmer field schools and Village Savings and Loans schemes:

  • 1500 smallholder farmers have enhanced their agronomic and business skills in Thyolo and Mulanje, whilst Village Saving and Loan Groups there have seen record participation by 3000 smallholder farmers. 40.000 workers in the tea industry now receive fortified maize meals during their midday meal
  • Tea estates have increased their investments in replanting and irrigation, and in upgrading factories to improve tea quality, despite a challenging economic context, with adverse weather conditions, a strong Kwacha/US dollar exchange rate and unreliable power supply
  • Climate change maps have been produced for tea growing areas to help farmers adapt to climate change and mitigate the worst effects.
  • Work is ongoing to enhance the wages of workers and the income of smallholder farmers and to strengthen the social dialogue between employers and workers represented by the Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union.

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