The history of coffee in Scotland and Malawi

11 Jun 2015
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Coffee was first introduced to Malawi by Dr. John Buchanan in the 1870s with a plant from the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. 

In the 1930s coffee plants were introduced to the north of the country. Here, in the hills around Mzuzu, the altitude and weather conditions were perfect for growing high quality Arabica coffee so the plants thrived. 

More and more farmers began growing coffee and in the 1940s the Mzuzu Coffee Union was former. Over 3000 farmers (25% of which are women) are now members of the union. Fast forward to 2015 and Malawi is now selling the coffee back to Scotland.

But why Scotland and Malawi? 
Links between Scotland and Malawi have existed for 156 years from when Scottish missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone first visited Malawi in 1859. These links are made from civil-society: people-to-people friendships where both sides contribute and benefit. Over 94,000 Scots and 198,000 Malawians are actively involved in links benefitting both Scotland and Malawi. 46% of Scots know someone with a link to Malawi.

Trade in Malawi
Currently Malawi operates at a trade deficit of approx. $600 million (imports $1.1 billion, exports $500 million).
To help Malawi out of this deficit, it needs to export more products. Scotland can help by creating a bigger market for one product in particular, Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee.

There are 94,000 Scots currently involved in active partnerships with Malawi. 46% of Scots know someone with a Malawi link – this is a potentially huge market for Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee.

Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee is already available to buy in the UK online through Traidcraft. We’re hoping that the UK’s major supermarkets will see selling it in stores across Scotland as a great investment, too.

Why support this now?
In 2005, the Scottish and Malawian Governments signed a Cooperation Agreement. This year, in November, we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of this Agreement to which there are four priority areas where both Governments agreed they would work together on. They are;

1. Education
2. Health
3. Governance
4. Sustainable Economic Development (Trade)

How does this impact Malawi?
Currently, of the export revenue in Malawi, $300 million (60%) comes from tobacco. This $300 million comes from over 3 million hectares of tobacco (source World Bank). To get the same revenue from coffee ($300 million) you would need 30,000 hectares (at 2kg/hectare and $5/kg, source Mzuzu co-op).
In short: 
To make $300million from tobacco you need 3 million hectares.
To make $300million from coffee, you only need 30,000 hectares.

What next?
By creating a market for Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee in Scotland, we encourage Malawi to grow more coffee, lowering their dependency on tobacco – which is already in decline due to its health risks. This is not a quick fix. In fact, it may take several years to see a positive impact – but there will be a positive impact.

Just think what Malawi could achieve in the next 156 years of partnership with Scotland.

How you can help?
Buy Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee It’s that simple. 

Spread the word on social media using #MzuzuCoffee and share @ScotlandMalawi pictures of yourself enjoying Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee.

Encourage your friends, family, workplace to buy Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee

Ask your local corner shop, and supermarket to stock Fairtrade Mzuzu coffee.

By working together, we can make a real difference. 
Get in touch for more info!