Producer Profiles

Kasinthula - Kasinthula Cane Growers Association

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.
 

Quotable

Fair Trade has been very helpful to us smallholder farmers. We have managed to carry out community projects which benefit us directly, but also larger groups and communities close by.  

Patrick Khambadza, Chairperson

The premiums from Fair Trade sales have increased our income, thereby improving our socio-economic status. We are also assured of sustainability in our business, as part of the premium money is reinvested in the plough-out and replanting program. This partnership with Fair Trade is very exciting because I understand Fair Trade aims to help us improve the conditions of our community, and there is so much we need to do.  

Exford Dimo,Sugar Grower and Board Member

Programs

Health Programs: Water and Medical Attention

The cooperative's first project was to drill wells and provide safe drinking water to two villages. With the additional gains from Fair Trade, they have expanded this project to 10 wells for more villages in the area. Before, the water supply was unsanitary and frequently caused diseases such as bilharzia, cholera and dysentery.

Kasinthula supplied the local health clinic with 20,000 tablets of Praziquantel, a medication required for the treatment of bilharzia. Despite the commonality of this disease, the government clinic had operated without this medicine for years.

Four bicycle ambulances were also purchased with Fair Trade premiums to help remote families in villages not accessible by motor vehicles get faster medical attention.

Improving Productivity

Portions of the Fair Trade premium will be used for replanting and improving the productivity of cane crops in several cycles. This investment would allow farmers to earn more from the same plot of land.

Education Investments

The Kasinthula cooperative has invested a significant portion of its Fair Trade premium in education. Members are working to provide building materials for the construction of new schools. They hope to build a primary school for children in remote villages and a secondary school near the cooperative's administrative office. Premium funds are also being used to pay school fees for farmers and their children.