Cooperating for a Profit: Winrock International and Kasinthula Cane Growers Limited

By Abby Massey

The story of Kasinthula Cane Growers Limited (KCGL), Malawi’s second biggest sugar farmer cooperative with 282 farmers, is just one of many examples of innovative business models made available to farmers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs by Winrock International. Emphasizing the use of environmentally sustainable production methods, Winrock collects examples of innovative Community Food Enterprises from around the world. 

The partnership between KCGL and the Shire Valley Cane Growers Trust is just one example of Winrock’s featured innovations. The two organizations, with support from the government, partnered in 1997 to become a sugarcane farmer cooperative. Despite perpetual drought, and flooding when there is rain, sugar is Malawi’s third largest export. The Trust owns ninety-five percent of the corporation and Illove, one of the largest sugar cane producers in the world, owns the remaining five percent. The Trust leases 755 hectares of sugarcane land that KCGL maintains, guaranteeing farmers—about one-third of whom are women—nearly 3 hectares of land for 25 years. The farmers produce non-organic, fair-trade certified sugar, and the profits are divided equally among the members of the cooperative. All of the sugar produced by the farmers is sold internationally by Illove, connecting the farmers and the cooperative to the global market.

KCGL, in cooperation with Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, have also developed a plan to direct fair trade premiums towards community investments, company infrastructure and building materials for the farmers. They have built a well for the community, brought electricity to small villages, and are opening their medical clinic to the community for HIV/AIDS education and treatment.  

As part of a collective, the farmers are given a voice in an industry where they otherwise might not be competitive. In addition to increased incomes through fair-trade certification and access to the world market, the farmers who are members of KCGL receive the support and stability they need to lift their families out of poverty.

 Abby Massey is a Food & Agriculture intern with the Nourishing the Planet project

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