Mzuzu Women in Coffee - Meet Martha Mhango
We all love our morning coffee. But less of us know how it got from the bean into our cups. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about exactly where some of your favourite fair trade coffees originate, join us on a journey to south east Africa, to meet some of the Malawian farmers who harvest our coffee beans.
Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union Limited (MCPCU), spread across Northern and Central Malawi, have been harvesting coffee since the early 1930s. Pioneering in its field, Mzuzu’s focus is on its farmers and sustainability. Mzuzu farmers are offered training on sustainable agricultural techniques, quality and processing, and are even provided with microfinance loans to buy seeds. Mzuzu also owns a coffee shop, Coffee Den, which provides an internet service and sells coffee and souvenirs, and Coffee Suites, a guest house in town which brings a lot of business to the area.
Unlike any other cooperative in the area, Mzuzu also runs a “Women in Coffee” programme, implemented to empower women farmers and increase their personal income by selling coffee grown by women to buyers all over the world. As a result, there are over 650 female farmers across the six cooperatives! This is drastically more than regular plantations in the area, who aren’t part of the Union.
It is at this point in our journey that we head to the hills of Malawi’s Rumphi district, to meet Martha Mhango. Martha started out as a coffee farmer in Phoka Coffee Cooperative, one of the Union’s six cooperatives, and since 2016 has been the elected Chairperson of Nkhonthwa zone.
Martha is a huge advocate for the Union’s “Women in Coffee” programme, as she has been able to provide for her family in a similar way that a man in her community can.
The fair trade premium that women like Martha receive is split into two. Half goes to the ‘zone’ for community development, for the likes of coffee washing stations, bridges and teachers’ houses, and the other half goes directly to the farmer herself.
Another great thing about the Mzuzu’s is that the waste biproducts from the coffee production comes back to the farmers to use as a fertiliser, minimizing waste and helping increase yields in following years.
With the help of the Union, Martha’s farm’s vision for the future is to have solar energy and water in their primary school, and to develop netball and football facilities.
If you’re inspired by Martha’s story and would like the opportunity to meet farmers just like her, and hear their stories for yourself, why not secure your place on a Meet the People tour? Alternatively, you can get involved with people like Martha from the comfort of your own front room, by choosing our Fairtrade coffee, specifically coffee from Martha's cooperative in Malawi, cultivated by farmers who are treated with respect and paid fairly, throughout the developing world.