The sugar in Divine Chocolate is Fairtrade Certified and sourced from the Kasinthula Cane Growers Association in Malawi. In 2015, Manager Charles Chavi and farmer Allan Saidi from Kasinthula visited the UK with Fairtrade Foundation for Fairtrade Fortnight.
With the threat of further penalties on non-European sugar in European products, Fairtrade cane sugar farmers around the world are at risk of losing customers. They are also at the mercy of the elements, and climate change is having a serious impact in Malawi. At the time of Charles and Allan’s visit, Malawi was recovering from widespread floods across the country which swept away homes and crops.
Divine CEO Sophi Tranchell visited Kasinthula in Malawi in 2014, so she was concerned to know how badly the flooding had affected them and what was happening in 2015. Read on below to learn more about the Kasinthula representatives’ visit to the UK, as written by Sophi.
“A lot of farmers lost their crops and livestock. Some houses also fell down,” said Charles. “There isn’t much Kasinthula has done except that farmers and employees were provided with maize in January.” He went on to suggest: “To help farmers prepare in the future, I think farmers should be encouraged to grow more food crops in summer. They should be supported to grow more trees. More should be done on climate change adaptation.”
Allan added, “The flooding affected me personally because all other crops I grew were flooded like maize and cotton. Fellow members’ houses were flooded as well as their crops. Kasinthula provides capacity building to address climate change, but it does not have enough funding.”
I was interested to know about how the new business model I’d heard about back in 2014 was progressing, which aimed to ensure each producer knew how productive he or she was each season.
“The model was developed, and it’s currently being used,” confirmed Charles. “We started by paying farmers in blocks, for example in groups of 5-10. We used to pay them a flat rate, and eventually farmers will be paid each according to their individual production.”
He explained that the new business model has increased yield, and the average is now 98 metric tons of sugar a hectare (~2.5 acres), a significant increase over the year before. This was partly due to the new model; it meant farmers worked harder because they knew that they would get the benefits. This outcome was also partly due to replanting. (Sugar is productive for 7 years, after which a farmer needs to plant a new seedling.)
Allan agreed that from his point of view the new model was having an impact: “It is working because farmers are now able to know the actual production of his/her sugar farm items of expenditures and incomes.”
Having welcomed farmers over in UK from Africa for the first time for more than a decade, it is always interesting and enlightening to know what most surprises them about what they see and find here.
Charles was impressed by the commitment and passion people have towards Fairtrade: “I see such hard work in trying to make Fairtrade a success.”
Allan was surprised to find all the school children taking part in Fairtrade activities. “This is really amazing,” he said.
When probed a little more to tell of his experiences on this trip, he admitted he wasn’t that keen on flying. “I didn’t like the effect that the flight and the vibrations had on my stomach. I was scared and tearful on the approach to Heathrow, but then when I looked around me and saw all the rich white people with me on the plane, I was encouraged!”
The favorite place Allan visited was Parliament. “I asked the people who took me there whether the big watch still worked!”
He was a bit perplexed by the fish he ate here. “The fish was strange. Where were the bones and the head and tail? When I asked what size the fish were, someone said that they were the size of a horse!”