Traidcraft, the original fair trade pioneers in the UK supports progression of female coffee workers


As the originator of the fair trade movement in the UK, Traidcraft has championed the importance of organic farming, sustainability and transparency for growers and artisans around the world for four decades. Traidcraft introduced the first fair trade tea, coffee, chocolate and sugar to the UK, and in 1992 the company co-founded the Fairtrade Foundation. Traidcraft now sells a wide range of fair trade products online, and promotes the importance of social justice, trade justice, and environmental justice. They challenge consumers to be mindful when they shop, investing in what is good, rather than chasing what is cheap.

As part of its ongoing commitment to the fair trade philosophy, Traidcraft has been involved with the Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union Limited (MCPCU), based in Malawi for over a decade.

Pioneering in its field, Mzuzu’s focus is on its farmers and sustainability. Mzuzu farmers are offered training on sustainable agricultural techniques, quality and processing, and are even provided with microfinance loans to buy seeds. Mzuzu also owns a coffee shop, Coffee Den, which provides an internet service and sells coffee and souvenirs, and Coffee Suites, a guest house in town which brings a lot of business to the area.

Unlike any other cooperative in the area, Mzuzu also runs a ‘Women in Coffee’ programme, implemented to empower women farmers and increase their personal income by selling coffee grown by women to buyers all over the world. As a result, there are over 650 female farmers across the six cooperatives! This is drastically more than regular plantations in the area, who aren’t part of the union.

In the hills of Malawi’s Rumphi district, Martha Mhango is one of the union’s coffee producers. She started as a coffee farmer in Phoka Coffee Cooperative, one of the union’s six cooperatives, and since 2016 has been the elected Chairperson of Nkhonthwa zone.

Martha is a huge advocate for the union’s ‘ Women in Coffee’ programme, as she has been able to provide for her family in a similar way that a man in her community can.

The fair trade premium that women like Martha receive is split into two. Half goes to the ‘zone’ for community development, for things such as coffee washing stations, bridges and teachers’ houses, and the other half goes directly to the farmer herself.

Another great thing about the MCPCU is that the waste biproducts from the coffee production comes back to the farmers to use as a fertiliser, minimizing waste and helping increase yields in following years.

With the help of the Union, Martha’s farm’s vision for the future is to have solar energy and water in their primary school, and to develop netball and football facilities.

For those who are interested in getting closer to the products that they consume, Traidcraft partners with Meet The People, a company which organises small group trips to destinations such as Malawi.