It was such a privilege to spend time with Webster Kito, a rice farmer from Malawi, on his recent visit to Cardiff.
Webster joined us with Tracy Mitchell, from Just Trading Scotland, who import the award-winning Kilombero Rice to promote the 90kg Rice Challenge and thank all those who have already taken part in the challenge. They were in Cardiff for less than 48 hours, but in that time, they met First Minister Carwyn Jones (and admired the glorious views of Cardiff Bay from the Cabinet Office); Mark Drakeford, Cardiff West AM, who gave us a tour of the Senedd; and visited Ysgol y Wern and St Monica’s Primary, schools that already champion fair trade in Cardiff.
We learned more about how Just Trading Scotland are supporting KASFA, the 7,000-strong cooperative that grows Kilombero Rice in Karonga, northern Malawi.
Through providing basic equipment such as ploughs and ox carts, the gruelling work of growing rice has become less labour intensive. Ox carts mean that women are saved from having to carry 50kg of rice on their heads for 2-3 miles and doubles up as transportation to the nearest hospital. Ploughs are also helping the farmers adapt to climate change – with weather patterns becoming increasingly unpredictable and the rains arriving later and later, the ploughs enable farmers to prepare the land for growing rice in just 1-2 days, instead of two weeks previously.
Webster told us he had “a very good trip”. Tracy adds, “A big Thank You to everyone at Fair Do’s for a great couple of days, a wonderful part of this 3-week farmer visit celebrating the 10 years of partnership between KASFA and JTS. Fair Do’s has been selling Kilombero rice from JTS right from the start and it was great to meet some of your enthusiastic staff and volunteers. The two school assemblies were inspirational and the meetings with the First Minister and Mark Drakeford, including the tour of the Assembly building were, of course, real highlights for us both.”
Buying Kilombero rice is transforming the lives of farmers such as Webster. The work is getting easier, the quality of the rice is improving and the production is becoming increasingly sustainable. But if you buy Kilombero rice, you’re also investing in Malawi’s future and the lives of the farmers’ children. If farmers sell 90kg of rice, they can earn what they need to send a child to secondary school for one year, in a country where in some areas, just one in four children enjoy the benefit of secondary education.
JTS has helped fund more than 250 years of education through the 90kg Challenge. Thank you to everyone who has already played a part in this huge success! But a child’s education shouldn’t end after one year. If you could make the 90kg rice challenge an annual event, you could help ensure that child returns to school to complete their secondary education. And if you haven’t yet taken up the challenge, what’s stopping you? Just let us know and we’ll take care of everything. If you’re a school or church, JTS will provide a resource pack with videos, lesson plans and much more to help others understand the big impact you are having on the lives of children and farmers in Malawi.