Ubuntu in Malawi
Ubuntu Cola owes its sweet taste to the Kasinthula Smallholder Cane Grower Scheme.
With help from their government, local leaders founded the scheme in 1996 in southern Malawi's Shire Valley to help local farmers earn a living.
Often referred to as the “warm heart of Africa”, Malawi is a young country which faces many of the issues confronting African nations today: many of its 12 million people live in rural villages as subsistence farmers where the average income is less than a dollar a day. Over half the population lives below the poverty line and average life expectancy is only 44. On the upside, its people have chosen multi-party democracy over conflict. School attendance is improving and Fairtrade together with other new trading opportunities is making a real difference to the lives of ordinary Malawians.
In 1996, 282 households from the Shire Valley in Southern Malawi formed a trust, leased 753 hectares of land and founded a farming cooperative, the Kasinthula Cane Growers Limited. It’s run by two committees of 10 members each, democratically elected every two years.
On average each small holder and their family farms 2.7 hectares, which is big enough for them to make a profit but small enough for them to be able to manage themselves. In 2007, the cooperative produced 80,000 tons of sugar cane (about 9,500 tons of sugar) and most of it is now sold on Fairtrade terms.
The farmers who are members of the Fairtrade cooperative at Kasinthula benefit from an income that although small at $4 a day is six times the national average. This enables them to live in brick houses and to educate their children. They benefit from electricity, clean water from new wells and medicines - all paid for with the money returned from the Fairtrade premium.
Elod Kafaukoma is a sugar cane farmer from Kasinthula, Malawi.
He worked as Secretary to the Fairtrade Committee of the Cooperative between 2005 and 2007. During this time he learned a lot about the Fairtrade movement and how it benefits producers like him.
He was born and raised in the Shire Valley of Malawi, home of Kasinthula, and lives in Chinangwe village with his wife and young child.
In his diary he talks about his life as a farmer but also as a man of the Valley and as a citizen of Malawi in the 21st century.