Tea is crucial to Malawi’s economy: over 68,000 people work in the industry, and it is the country’s fourth main export. Climate change is affecting how and where tea can be grown in Malawi.
It is small-scale tea farmers and their communities who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As part of the Malawi Tea 2020 partnership, we have worked with strategic partners to identify the impact of these changes, and how best to address them.
Electricity is in short supply in this African country: nearly 90% of Malawians don’t have access to grid electricity, including most tea farmers.
Deforestation is another fundamental issue, and since 2000 tea growing regions have seen a significant decrease in tree coverage compared to the rest of the country. Aside the wider environmental impacts, this has daily consequences for a rural population that still relies on wood for cooking.
We run a host of interlinking programmes that help tea farmers in Malawi become more resilient to climate change. We actively work with tea communities to address environmental issues.
We work in partnership through the Malawi Tea 2020 programme, which we’re coordinating along with the Tea Association of Malawi (TAML), Oxfam, IDH – Sustainable Trade Initiative and German development agency GIZ. This ground-breaking initiative is helping to create a more sustainable Malawian tea sector, which is transforming people’s lives.
Through our programmes we help improve tea communities’ access to sustainable energy and reduce their need to collect firewood. We also support them to regenerate forest areas and reduce climate impact.
Environmental initiatives offer innovative entrepreneurial opportunities for tea workers and farmers to make more money to support their families. For example, some of the lamps sold as part of our solar programme also have a USB point, and so people can make money by offering a USB recharging service at their homes.
As 90% of Malawians are not connected to grid electricity, ETP has made zero-interest loans available to tea farmers so that they can buy solar products. These include lights, mobile phone chargers, radios, MP3 players and many other useful devices.
So far, farmers have bought close to 3,000 solar items and the most popular are the lights. Not only does solar lighting extend the day for farmers and their families, it also reduces how much they spend on batteries or fuel and is a lot safer.
It is children’s lives that have been most enriched by the introduction of solar lights. Schoolkids can now do their homework even after the sun has set. This means that they can now play when they get home from school, rather than having to do all their schoolwork first.
Having solar radios have proved to be a great addition to rural households. Not only are families now connected to what’s going on with the news, they can also sing and dance to music.
ETP works with farmers and local communities to set up tree nurseries in Malawi’s tea growing regions. Trees are grown specifically to replant in the forest, to be used for firewood, construction and for fruit production. The nurseries are in areas that are vulnerable to erosion; severely deforested; have acute firewood challenges; or where hydroelectricity infrastructure needs protection from landslides.
We’re currently supporting 22 tree nurseries, training farmers how to plant, nurture and grow seedlings. In 2018, farmers planted approximately 60,000 trees. Our aim is to grow and plant 180,000 trees in tea communities by the end of 2020.
Read more about our tree planting programme in our blog.
To drive forward our efforts, we run community events to raise awareness of the need for tree conservation. We also work with local leaders to develop and promote laws that encourage the protection of trees.
Wood from the nurseries can be sold for building projects as well as fuel. ETP supports farmers to make sure that the nurseries are sustainable, and can become a business themselves. We offer business and entrepreneurship training, and assist farmers to identify viable markets to sell to. This extra income helps farmers to provide for their families.
Beekeeping encourages people to take an interest in conserving the forest and protects other wildlife. Where there are bees, people are less likely to chop down the trees in case they get stung so it helps with forest preservation.
Since July 2018, ETP has set up and supported 100 beehives in tea growing regions which need protection. They are looked after by a group of over 100 farmers, most of which are women, who’ve called themselves the Mbozi beekeeping club.
Farmers can sell honey and other bee products, such as candles made from beeswax. We support farmers to make sure that they get the most from their hives, and also to sell their wares.
The extra money made from selling bee products helps farmers with their day-to-day needs, like putting food on the table for their families. For some it’s proved a life-changing addition to their budgets and contributes to repairing their homes – making sure roofs are weather resistant, for example. For others, it means that they can pay for their children’s education.
It’s common to use open wood fires for cooking in rural Malawi. This is dangerous, causing respiratory issues and premature deaths. The demand for fuelwood encourages deforestation.
To combat this, ETP has trained tea farmers to build and sell fuel-efficient, clean cookstoves. To date, farmers have sold over 4,000 stoves. We aim to have the stoves in 12,000 households by the end of 2020.
Thanks to the fuel-efficient stoves, families can reduce their fuel use by around 30%. The benefits are clear: less money is spent on fuelwood and people have more time to spend with their families – rather than collecting wood. The stoves are portable and so families can cook outside the home, reducing how much smoke they inhale.
Each stove is estimated to save the equivalent of three tonnes of CO2 per year, with a total annual saving of all the stoves equal to over 10,000 tonnes of CO2. That’s the same as the yearly emissions produced by around 1,250 Europeans.
Not only are the stoves helping the environment, selling them offers an additional income for farmers. The money they make from the stoves can go towards their children’s school fees, and other crucial investments.
Learn more about our cookstoves programme in our blog
Keen to add to her income, tea farmer Angela joined ETP’s cookstove programme where she makes and sells stoves. She invests the extra money she makes in to a community savings scheme. She says,
“I can see that my life is changing for the better. Now that I am able to do things independently because of this new income, other women in the community look to me as an example, they want to learn from me. Even my husband gives me the respect I deserve, much more respect than a wife traditionally gets”.
A graduate from ETP’s agricultural training programme, Farmer Field School, Angela is “getting a much better yield. I have more money now. I am no longer struggling to send my children to school”. Her other priority is “that the food I buy is balanced in the ways I learnt in Farmer Field School. The extra money allows me to do this”.
Find out more
Read more about ETP’s environmental efforts, including the work we’re driving in Malawi.
All these initiatives are part of 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 are thriving.
To learn more about key programmes ETP runs to improve incomes for farmers in Malawi click here.