A Thriving and Sustainable Tea Industry in Malawi

Chris Flowers, Regional Director

20th December 2017


The challenges of environmental sustainability, improving product quality and improving working conditions within a market place characterised by fluctuating prices, is not unique to tea producers. The task we face is how to balance these often conflicting objectives.

As responsible Companies we have many duties, foremost of these is sustainability. Whether we are referring to our environmental, social or economic activities sustainability is the cornerstone of what we do.  

At EPM we are actively engaged in many projects across all aspects of sustainability working in conjunction with key partners such as the Tea Association of Malawi, IDH, ETP and our key tea buyers.

The Malawi 2020 program has set out a clear and ambitious road map for the creation of a thriving and sustainable tea industry, anchored firmly in commercial reality.  This is not an easy task, and one which sometimes unearths difficult and sensitive issues.  EPM has taken a leading role in the process, heading up the committees on gender, energy and industrial relations.

In recognition of our endeavours, in 2017 the Tea Association of the USA awarded us a Gold medal for social sustainability for the work undertaken on enhancing the integration of Women into the business. 

“We have seen a lot of good changes since the introduction of the gender policy in our company. Cases of men harassing us have decreased. We are also being given equal chances to apply and occupy positions such as Capitao or Clerk that were previously predominantly occupied by men.” Mercy Gama

One of our latest projects, also being very pertinent to the season was with Twinings to hold a Christmas Card drawing competition in our Primary Schools.  The event captured the children’s imagination with stiff competition for the wining spots.  Just today we have received in our offices in Nairobi the finished articles, absolutely amazing to see this initiative come to fruition.  A very big thank you to all at Twinings for working with us on this.  

Our work on environmental enrichment as well as energy reduction is also paying dividends.  Despite significant deforestation in Malawi we feel we are still making a positive contribution to enriching our natural environment.  This year we have planted over 5,000 indigenous trees in various tea fields, river banks and Chithandos (villages) around our tea estates. 

We hope the latest initiatives to reduce the amount of electricity we consume will also make us more sustainable, especially as we face significant power shortages within the Country.  Our engineering department has made plans this year and next, to experiment with more energy efficient withering fans, which currently consume 30% of our electricity, as well as some more high tech solutions to reducing the power used for drying.

A continue to invest in our irrigation of special cultivar tea.  Planting varieties which we believe will meet all our buyers needs in years to come.  The latest irrigation is being installed on the Mulosa and Ruo River on the Mozambique Border. 

There have been considerable efforts this year, as a Group to map our carbon footprint working with the team at the Carbon Trust UK to develop target setting tools.  We now have a very clear picture of the main contributors to our carbon emissions and perhaps more importantly, what interventions we can sensibly make to mitigate these.

There are many challenges ahead of us however, it is imperative that we continue to focus on the goal – A thriving and sustainable tea industry in Malawi.