The Kasinthula Cane Growers Association is located in the Shire Valley, an almost inhospitable region in south Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Southern Africa. The lower Shire valley is poverty-stricken and lives harsh, hot climates and long dry seasons. Droughts occasionally result in famine, and rainfall, usually occurring twice a year, frequently brings floods. Soils are fertile but irrigated commercial farming is the farmers’ only viable production method. Sugar, therefore, is the area’s largest source of employment and financial gain. Farmers who do not grow sugar rely on subsistence cultivation of rice, maize and cassava. Cotton is also produced, but not in the same amount as sugar. Malawi is a landlocked country whose economy relies almost entirely on agriculture, which provides over 85 percent of the population with its livelihood. Smallholder farmers constitute an estimated 90 percent of all farmers, but the contribution of this sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is overshadowed by the numerous challenges farmers face. Mainly, high input costs, poor rural infrastructure, inadequate health facilities, lack of agricultural extension services, costly irrigation system maintenance and a lack of appropriate technology. Sugarcane production could contribute immensely to the development of the Shire Valley if small farmers are organized and can access affordable credit programs. With this in mind, the Kasinthula Cane Growers Association was formed by the government in 1998. Today, the cooperative is managed by the farmers who continue to develop sustainability projects and bring hope to its people, many still living below the poverty line. Fair Trade has the potential to stimulate further economic development by providing resources, through premiums, for direct assistance in areas such as water treatment, education and health. Sugar is the third-largest foreign-currency earner after tobacco and tea in the country. The Kasinthula Cane Growers' Association is the only smallholder sugarcane producing company in Malawi.
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