Fair Grounds has always had a special relationship with Malawi. In 2005, before Fair Grounds was founded, Nina visited me whilst I was living there and we went on a tour of the country’s Fair Trade co-operatives.

I was a founding member of Fair Grounds and have continued to volunteer with them since. This summer I returned from living in Malawi for 2 years and brought with me my best friend Odeni. We spent a week in Sheffield volunteering in the Fair Grounds shop and Odeni was amazed to learn about the Malawian Fair Trade products that are sold in the UK.

In July we were part of the Fair Grounds stall team at WOMAD world music festival, enjoying a beautifully sunny weekend and record breaking sales!

Odeni has now returned to Malawi but not before he and Nina had discussions about setting up a craft co-operative for the women in his village to be involved in. Odeni comes from a very rural village where almost all the population live below the poverty line. This co-operative has the potential to really boost the income of Champiti residents. Nina and I spoke to Odeni recently and he says the women are very excited about this idea and have collected all the leaves, sticks and bark and will soon start making baskets which would be perfect for making up Fair Trade hampers in the shop, or for useful and decorative storage around the home.

Fair Trade supporters often champion Malawi without even knowing it as most of the sugar in Traidcraft products comes from the Kasinthula sugar co-oprative in the south of the country. Fair Grounds also sells Kilombero rice which quickly became my favourite dish in Malawi. It is fragrant and slightly sticky much like a jasmine or thai rice. Malawi’s top Fair Trade product for me however is the Traidcraft Mzuzu coffee. For over a decade I have been frustrated seeing coffees from other countries line the shelves with Malawi’s Mzuzu coffee remaining absent. Now it is here and its rich, dark and almost caramel tones won’t disappoint – wake up and smell the coffee!

 

Author: David Atherton

(David was a founding member of Fair Grounds, and continues to volunteer with us. He is currently working for VSO in their London headquarters, after returning from a two year trip in Malawi as a nurse and teacher).