Africa Day marks the foundation of the African Union in 1963. Many of the festivities around the world celebrate African unity and heritage by showcasing African art, music, and food. Since its creation ten years ago, Liberation (the UK’s first Fair Trade nut company) has sourced cashew nuts in Mozambique and peanuts in Malawi and showcased these African nuts in leading supermarkets across the UK.
Trading on Fairtrade and ethical principles, Liberation aims to support smallholder farmers to increase their access to high value markets. To this aim, Liberation supports Twin (its development partner and one of its founders) in its work with Malawian nut farmers to improve the quality of their peanuts. Over the past two years, Twin has been providing technical assistance, training and equipment to support the farmers to develop their peanut value chain and bring a higher return to the peanut farmers.
Twin is working with the nut farmers of Mchinji Association of Smallholder Farmers (MASFA) to shell their nuts using mechanical shellers at a central warehouse. The aim is to increase the quality of the peanut kernels by bringing them into a controlled environment for shelling and introducing quality control systems. By removing the drudgery of hand shelling the nuts, farmers are saving time and money, but also reducing the risk of contamination of a common fungus that poses a danger to both humans and animal health and limits access to European markets. Women, who tend to shell the nuts, now report engaging in other income generating activities such as rearing animals and producing other food crops such as sweet potato, which is both nutritious and lucrative.
Over the past nine months, Twin has also helped develop a new approach for training farmers on good agricultural practices and post harvest practices. The materials are entirely drawn by farmers. Rather than using text which many farmers found difficult to follow, the new materials involve symbols of familiar activities such as sewing and weeding and farmers develop their own targets and milestones for measuring their own progress. A communal approach has also created strong peer support and shared trouble shooting. Farmers, especially illiterate farmers, have expressed their appreciation of the methodology and found it inclusive and empowering as all are encouraged to train their friends and family.
Aida Henderson, in Mchinji District, is 48 years old. She is a mother of five children, aged 9 to 21 years old. She produces groundnut, soya, maize and winter crop of tomatoes.
She has trained 120 people and is proud of her achievement, saying: “I have seen a change in myself”.
“Before I didn’t have a vision for myself or my family. Now I am able to follow the agricultural calendar which I draw each month for myself. My vision is to build a good strong house. Soon I will have sold my crop and I will begin.”
So on this Africa Day, enjoy some Fairtrade peanuts and celebrate with Liberation the empowerment of smallholder African farmers and a world where nut producers earn a decent secure income and can plan for their future, their families and communities.