Msuwadzi had its RA and UTZ audits on 21/10/2011. we had only one critical criterion on RA and one Major on UTZ. we are currently working on the corrective measures so that we come RA, UTZ and Fairtrade certified.
Well it’s been a busy few months here in Southern Malawi so here is a summary of what the Msuwadzi Association have been up to since our last update.
We have been working hard to ready ourselves for next week’s Rainforest Alliance audit. Having undertaken Fairtrade and UTZ audits earlier this winter, Rainforest Alliance will be the third ethical certification we hope to achieve. We shall update date you on the outcomes of the audit later this month.
Whilst the results of the resolutions sent to UTZ are still pending, we have received confirmation that our Fairtrade Certification has been renewed for another year – This is great new and means we can continue investing the Fairtrade premium in community wide projects for the Small Holder Tea Farmers and their families.
Following the recent UTZ audit, the Msuwadzi Association have been working hard to update some of their policies to fit with the UTZ Certified Standards.
Whilst this has not required wholesale changes within the organisation, the Executive have undergone training in a number of aspects including the formalisation of an “Internal inspection Process” for the Association.
This requires that each farmer undergoes an in-depth assessment of their farm and farming practices to ensure that they comply with the relevant standards. Several members of the executive have been trained to act as Internal Auditors to conduct the reviews of their fellow members. These will be examined by external auditors during next years’ audit.
The internal inspection process is aimed at best-practice tea farming; ensuring that tea is harvested in a way that is not damaging to the local environment or communities involved in farming tea, as well as improving crop yield and quality.
Having submitted our corrective actions, we look forward to being able to announce an update on the certification process in the very near future.
Senior Executive Members of Msuwadzi Association attended the recent National Agricultural fair at the Trade show grounds, Blantyre. The event was open to companies and organisations involved in agricultural technology, farm inputs, production systems, pest control, research and training, and related services under the banner of “Accelerating Development through Agriculture”
The Msuwadzi Association were represented by Wilfred Kasitomu (Chairman) and Kate Hambeyani (Fairtrade Premium Officer) who answered lots of questions about the activites of the association, including the journey to fairtrade certification.
They also received lots of enquiries from buyers into Small Holder tea, particularly fairtrade certified tea and managed to sell all of the tea samples by the end of the trade fair.
Kate and Wilfred were excited to be able to meet some of the other exhibitors and view their products and projects, which has given them lots of useful income-generating ideas, that the Association could employ with the available resources back in Thyolo.
Below are a couple of photos of Wilfred and Kate in action.
As part of a Fairtrade fact-finding mission, the Executive members of the Msuwadzi Association were very proud to welcome a delegation of visitors from neighbouring Mozambique who were interested in finding out more about the Fairtrade process and the impact it has had on the association.
The visit had been arranged by Malawi FLO Liaison officer Aubrey Nyasulu and his Mozambican counter-part who was relatively new in post. They were accompanied by the President of the General Assembly of the farmers Union and two representatives from SNV, a Dutch NGO who are helping to introduce Fairtrade as a business concept in Mozambique.
Mr Kasitomu, the Executive Chairman was asked a number of questions about the association’s history and how it came to be fairtrade certified as well as how the fairtrade premium had been spent to date. The visitors were also keen to know what sort of challenges the association had faced along the way.
The Msuwadzi Association were happy to be able to support fellow Small Holder farmers in this way and wish our friends in Mozambique success with their certification process.
The Executive members were recently visited by Mr Marc Monsarrat of the Rainforest Alliance network to introduce their certification program to the Msuwadzi Association. Following fairtrade certification and our ongoing work with UTZ, the Association are keen to add the Rainforest Alliance certification to our collection.
The Rainforest Alliance seal is seen on some of the biggest brand of tea sold in the UK and would widen the market opportunities for the association.
As with the other certification programmes, the standards are very strictly monitored and the Msuwadzi Association have lots of work to do to make sure everything is place prior to an audit. However the meeting has given the members reassurance that achieving the Rainforest Alliance seal of approval is within their grasp.
We shall keep you up to date as we follow this path towards certification.
Over the weekend, the Msuwadzi Association received a visit from Mr Stirling Smith from the Co-operative College in the UK. He was part of a 3 man party which included Mr John Mulangeni from the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Prof. Suleman A. Chambo from the Department of Co-operative Management and Development, Moshi University of Co-operative and Business Studies, Tanzania.
The visit will form part of a report into the co-operative sector in Malawi which is identifying its education and training needs. The Co-Operative group is the fifth largest supermarket retailer in the UK and sources a number of products from Malawi – including our fairtrade certified tea right here in Thyolo!
It is hoped that the visit will provide the basis for long term collaboration between the co-operative movement in the UK and Malawi