A multi-stakeholder partnership with Malawian tea producers, the largest international tea buyers, voluntary sustainability standards, NGOs and governments working together towards a competitive Malawian tea industry where workers earn a living wage and smallholders are thriving. It also aims for significant improvements in general working and living conditions of tea estate workers, especially women.
Activities are coordinated by a Steering Committee comprising the Tea Association of Malawi (TAML), which represents producers, IDH, Oxfam, and the Ethical Tea Partnership which brings together the buying companies. In total, 20 different organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the Summer of 2015 committing them to the program.
The partnership aims to achieve the following goals:
A more competitive and profitable industry that is paying a living wage to workers (includes developing an improved wage‐setting process with greater worker representation)
Under the Malawi 2020 programme, ongoing outreach to financiers and donors takes place to garner support for irrigation, replanting, and factory refurbishment projects with the aim of revitalizing the tea sector. In 2017, 2 deals of an estimated 3 MLN USD are in the pipeline and tea estates themselves have invested 6.3 MLN USD into wide-ranging projects, such as agricultural and infrastructural improvements or electricity generation.
A profitable estate sector must include viable options for sustainable procurement practices. Currently, such models have been developed and are under discussion with producers and buyers.
Living wages have moved closer through PAWUM and TAML capacity building to improve the wage setting process and worker representation. At the moment, the current prevailing wage, including cash and in-kind benefits, is MWK 1’753, and the living wage target is MWK 3’051. While a gap remains, 337 managers were trained in 2017 on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which lays the groundwork for an employer/worker dialogue on wage setting processes. 5’500 workers were reached in wage sensitization sessions.
A healthier, motivated, and productive workforce, with greater opportunities for women
Worker health has been addressed in 2017 through the implementation of a nutrition programme. 30’000 workers, out of a target of 50’000, currently receive fortified meals and all workers in the tea sector receive weekly portions of vegetables.
TAML also implemented a policy to curb sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. As a result, four estates have instituted gender committees, and related training sessions for supervisors, managers, and workers commenced in September 2017.
An improved smallholder sector where farmers earn a living income
Enabling a profitable smallholder sector is key to securing living incomes for workers. Capacity building efforts in 2017, notably developing skills in tea growing and business management practices, have progressed towards this goal. Multiple areas central to reaching the 2020 profitability targets have been affected. To date, 1’548 farmers have participated in 50 Farmer Field Schools, and field-level practices have been improving: 540’000 tea plants are being cultivated in 45 mini tea nurseries and 3’138 farmers are participating in a total of 173 Village Savings and Loans groups across the country.
The living income study has succeeded in establishing a living income benchmark with the preliminary result of 2’889 MWK (USD PPP 15.04) for the benchmark and 1’574 MWK (USD PPP 8.16) for current incomes.
More sustainable energy use and an improved environment in tea-growing areas
As of September 2017, seven factories have started collecting primary data on their energy efficiency and in June key stakeholders took part in a training on climate change impact mapping, although it is too early in the process to draw conclusions on their use of mapping to inform their business plans. Under a programme targeting woodlot production, 10 tree nurseries have been established. The roll-out of energy efficient stoves and solar lights has been pushed forward through the establishment of six cook stove production groups with 125 members, and the training of 140 sales agents.
The first half of 2016 the Malawi Tea 2020 revitalization programme transitioned from design into implementation. A recognition agreement between the plantations Union and the Tea Association of Malawi was signed, followed by the first collective bargaining which resulted in a Collective Bargaining Agreement in effect from the 1 August 2016. Wages were raised by 24%. Furthermore smallholder and worker projects were started. For example, from the nutrition workstream, the midday meals of 18.800 Malawian plantation workers are now fortified as a result of our support to the work of GAIN.
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