The Balmore Trust – working in partnership with smallholder farmers and communities in Malawi.

The Balmore Trust, together with JTS, has over a number of years, established a close working partnership with KASFA (Kaporo Smallholder Farmer’s Association). Since 2009, JTS has imported and developed a market for the aromatic Kilombero Rice grown by these farmers in the Karonga region of Northern Malawi, now supplying it to Fairtrade supporters around the UK. As our partnership has developed and we have learned more about the challenges facing these communities of smallholder farmers we have been privileged to work with KASFA on various projects such as improving seed quality, water management to mitigate against the effects of climate change, and most recently working with KASFA to help them achieve World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) membership. We were delighted when KASFA was awarded WFTO membership in September 2021.

As we have worked together we have learned more about the importance of supporting and empowering woman in these communities. We were delighted to work with Grace Mwanguti to develop her project making fuel briquettes from waste rice husks. This project aims to reduce deforestation by creating a fuel for cooking that can be used as an alternative to firewood collected from the hillsides. A further aim is to empower the women to develop their own business. We have been grateful for the interest and support this project has generated not least with Grace’s Briquette Project being awarded the Climate Partnership Award from the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.

We have seen significant challenges along the way with this project both with Covid and with the deteriorating financial situation in Malawi which has contributed to escalating costs. We are delighted that the two buildings to house the briquette machines are complete, and the machines have been purchased.  There is still a major challenge to overcome in getting the buildings connected to the mains electricity required to run the briquette machines.  We hope that this will be achieved soon and we will see Grace’s dream become a reality.

As we go forward we hope to further develop our partnership with some of our other Fair Trade suppliers so that we can support them in the ways that they feel will be most helpful.

We have committed to supporting Meru Herbs in Kenya to achieve WFTO status and are delighted that this work is progressing. We have also been learning more about the work of the Woman Farmer Foundation in Eswatini and exploring how best to support their projects aimed at helping young and women farmers improve their livelihoods despite the problems caused by the climate unpredictability that they are living with.

Photo credits: Howard Msukwa, Malawian rice farmer, member of KASFA