One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever.
Mzuzu and Fair Trade Scotland started this campaign to re-ignite the dialogue with Fairtrade International about enhancing their certification system, which is in urgent need of updating, by putting the needs of the Producer first and in Mzuzu’s case raising funds to repay wages and guarantee Fairtrade recertification.
Despite its best intentions to stamp out inequalities and discrimination against marginalised producers, too many still live in the abject poverty we have been talking about.
Producers need a Fairtrade Certification System that better reflects the challenges they face and gives them a fairer share of the available revenues from the trading relationship. A certification system that truly embodies the Principles and Values of the other actors in the global Fair Trade movement.
Will you don the mantel of change too?
Fairtrade International maintains that the only stumbling block to the completion of Mzuzu’s recertification (lost in 2019 for unjust reasons - read the "Background" paragraphs below) is the outstanding wage arrears, to be paid to the Cooperative staff, not the farmers, which were accrued during and after the coffee crisis in 2017. The 157 staff members agreed to waive their wages until the market picked up by voluntarily signing an agreement to this effect.
We count on you to recertify!
Background: The ups and downs of a Fairtrade Certified coffee farmer
Resilient, pioneering, innovators, and committed to sustainable coffee production: just some of the qualities that define Malawi’s Mzuzu Cooperative.
Its farmer members, now in excess of 3000, have been producing coffee with dignity and care since the 1930s; a heritage of which they are rightly proud.
Yet their longevity and pioneering approach to producing coffee is facing uncertainty due, in part, to a certification system that does not allow for real partnership working.
Achieving Fairtrade certification in 2009 was an important milestone, opening many opportunities to trade their green bean, with overseas customers; however, the union’s fortunes took a downturn with the crisis that struck the global industry in 2017.
The market was flooded with a huge surplus of Brazilian beans and small producers like Mzuzu were hit with a double whammy of plummeting prices and the inability to sell their next year’s harvest.
This, coupled with not yet having solidified its place in the market as an exporter of roast and ground coffee, meant that financial commitments made to staff went unfulfilled in 2018 - 2020.
Then, in a perfect storm, a subsequent FLO-Cert audit found Mzuzu no longer met the criteria for Fairtrade certification.
Despite complying with all the conditions for continued certification and repeated requests to Fairtrade International for the time to see their recovery plan through to the end abrupt decertification followed. This immediately led to the loss of 18 overseas customers whose revenues since 2019 would have helped meet outstanding wage payments to the cooperative staff.
10 years of strict Fairtrade compliance, whilst successfully promoting the benefits of Fairtrade certification, Mzuzu was let down by a Fairtrade Systems Failure!
Why the re-certification is important?
99% of the coffee revenues go to roasters in the importing countries where they operate, whilst growers and farmers in poor countries only get 1% of it. The lives of growers and farmers are very difficult, after all, they live on £25 - £500 per year. Yes, per year! In the worst-case scenario, the farmer’s family must live an entire month on what a cup of coffee costs in the UK.
This is the reality in the Coffee industry. The coffee planters should have more dignity in their lives. Fairtrade practices should be redesigned to provide this dignity. Where they can have a decent life and plan for the future rather than live a hand-to-mouth existence.
The only way to do is by retaining the roasting and grinding processes in the community where the coffee is grown and keeping more of the revenues locally.
Another advantage is that exporting the lighter coffee ready for consumption will decrease Greenhouse gas emissions during shipping by 20% and contribute to a Greener industry.
Hence, we get the cycle closed, and we guarantee the sustainability of the coffee industry, where:
- farmers and growers have a better, more sustainable life
- poor countries can boost their economies and remove more people from extreme poverty
- nature will be better preserved
- and the consumer will have a cheaper product with more social and environmental impact
Mzuzu and Fair Trade Scotland will lead the way. With 6 cooperatives in Malawi, Mzuzu is the only coffee producer to have satisfied two independently audited Fairtrade certification and Fair Trade verification Systems in the market.
A pioneer in roasting coffee, they can reintegrate into the global Fairtrade market and bring to consumers a high-quality product, with a fair price, and positive social impact. However, they need help!
Helping has its rewards
We are making available some rewards to appreciate your contribution to helping Mzuzu Coffee Cooperative to be re-certified and put back on track the lives of over 3,000 farmer families.
£ 280: Paintings by Mathias Funsani (Malawian artist), Acrylic on canvas
93cm x 58 cm (frame not included in the reward)
87 cm x 59 cm (frame not included in the reward)
87,50 cm x 49 cm (frame not included in the reward)
63 cm x 40 cm (frame not included in the reward)
£ 120: Fair Trade Tartan Backpack
£ 80: Fair Trade Tartan Tie
£ 60: Fair Trade Tartan Pencil Case
£50: Fair Trade Tartan Coin purse
£40: Fair Trade Tartan Card Holder