The Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union (MZCPCU) is comprised of five primary cooperatives in northern Malawi: Misuku Hills, Phoka Hills, Viphya North, Nkhata Bay Highlands, and South East Mzimba. Over 50% of their coffee is grown in the remote, lushly forested Misuku hills region, which runs along the Tanzanian border, at altitudes ranging between 1700m and 2000m. Fertile soil and heavy annual rainfalls render favorable conditions for coffee cultivation, and these farmers consistently yield award-winning coffee of exceptional quality. Initially founded by the government to organize smallholders in the 1970s, the MZCPCU became an independent and not-for-profit organization in 2007, after an 8-year transitional period to becoming a privatized entity, owned and operated by the members. Shortly thereafter, in 2009, they became Fair Trade Certified. As cooperative members, farmers have become highly organized and commercially-oriented, and they have diversified their production to beekeeping (also Fair Trade Certified) and wheat growing to supplement coffee incomes. Additionally, 150 farmers in two zones are in the process of conversion to organic agriculture, and they expect to be certified by the 2014-2015 harvest. MZCPCU aspires to achieve 50% organic certification by 2020. With Fair Trade sales growing each year, the union has invested in the construction of a private rural hospital, pit latrines at local schools, and road improvements, which facilitate access to processing plants and collection centers for farmers. They also renovated their office headquarters and supplied them with electricity. These investments enable members to continue to produce their unique coffees renowned for their flavor and quality—a light to medium body with intense citrus acidity and complex floral tones.
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