February was spent solidifying relationships and establishing new ones in Malawi's tea industry. Lucky for us, Malawi's producing region is rather close to our home base in Blantyre.
Forestry and thermal heat
Commercial agriculture all over the world requires energy - human, solar, thermal, electricity, all kinds. In Malawi and in many tea growing areas, all of the above are required.
As a consequence of a long history of mismanagement, exploitation, and myopia ('shortermism'), Malawi's electrical grid is unreliable.
Those lucky enough to have power, are constantly struggling against blackouts In the dry season low water flow through very old hydro dams hurts production. Similarly, in the rainy season, the system is often overwhelmed.
Long story short, Malawi's tea producers need to be self-sufficient - diesel generation for electricity to drive CTC production lines and sustainable forestry for thermal heat.
The very strong men in the photo above are harvesting blue gum (eucalyptus) for use in Satemwa's factory to increase the temperature of the leaves as they ferment on the ctc line. Due to deforestation, it's essential that our producer partners maintain a sustainable forest for thermal heat. Rainforest Alliance certifications assure that this is the case.
Holistic Care Malawi
This is the amazing part about Malawi. A very little bit goes a long, long way. Holistic Care, based in Blantyre, a community development organization started by my mother-in-law Christine top-center in the blue, currently provides 5 square meals per week and daycare for some 50+ orphans and in-home care to older citizens living with HIV/AIDS. This entire operating, as bare-bones as it is, operates on only $25USD/month.
Malawi is an impoverished country, for sure. We choose to focus on the unfulfilled potential and take steps to provide opportunities for health, education, and employment.
For Mulanje Tea Imports, that means hiring local Malawians and providing access to the huge consumer demand in the US at a reasonable price. Where possible, we push for specialized products like orthodox teas, decaf, and customized grades.