The Highlands Macadamia Co-operative Union Ltd (HIMACUL), based in Malawi, is the most recent INC member and have a distinct focus on climate-smart macadamia agroforestry. The co-operative, with over 3,800 members, supports regenerative farming. For World Fair Trade Day 2021, Fairtrade Foundation included HIMACUL as an excellent example of an organisation fighting the climate crisis through agroforestry.
Ken Mkengala is the Manager of HIMACUL.
Can you tell us a bit about HIMACUL and your role?
HIMACUL is a secondary level cooperative union that is affiliated with 8 farming co-operatives in Malawi. These coops represent over 3800 smallholder farmers.
As manager, I oversee all phases of the business of the cooperatives, including all stages of the processing of the product, directing members in achieving our objectives and reporting to the HIMACUL Board of Trustees.
How does being a member of HIMACUL benefit the coops and farmers?
The individuals affiliated with the primary co-ops receive a profit and dividends. HIMACUL connects coops to the international market. If there was no HIMACUL these farmers wouldn’t be able to access the market service!
What are the challenges HIMACUL faces?
HIMACUL are a relatively young cooperative. At the moment we are not able to aggregate many crops as the trees are too young. We are still in the process of uniting the members and do not have a perfect system as of yet, one result of this is that some crops did not get collected and have gone to waste.
We are also still working towards the desired quality standard of the product (which is very high) due to a lack of well-structured processes for production, for example with the drying of the nuts. There is a need for capacity building and training for farmers. We need to boost skills and knowledge to avoid poor handling of the products but this is all a learning process.
What is your connection to the INC and Liberation?
HIMACUL is a member of the INC (International Nut Cooperative) that distributes directly to Liberation. It is a really positive step that the INC is now a majority shareholder of Liberation. This new development will mean it operates as a commercial entity for the coops and will serve members even better than before. As HIMACUL is a member of the INC it will also benefit us!
Being a part of the INC is really beneficial. As we mentioned before, we are a relatively young Cooperative Union and so it is extremely helpful to learn from more mature coops and use their experience to help shape our own.
When HIMACUL began it´s process of creating a value chain in Europe in 2008, Liberation directly traded with HIMACUL for a luxury Christmas Special nut mix that was sold in Tesco and Sainsburys. We hope to work closely together again in the near future.
Finally, can you tell us abit about Macadamia nuts?
Our whole lives depend on Macadamia. The trees are evergreen- they protect and give nutrients to the soil, give farmers shade during the working day and the shells of the nut can be used instead of firewood to reduce felling of the trees.
The nuts themselves are food security for farming communities- people survive on them. The crops are harvested between December and March when other food stocks have depleted. They are rich in healthy fats and nutrients and economically there is no other crop in Malawi that can fetch a better market price!