top of page
Farmer one


Mulanje and Thyolo Districts 



Sukambizi Association Trustthe Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP)Thuchila Tea Association

and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation

Project Funder:

Guernsey Overseas Aid and Development Commission and ETP


09/2022 to 02/2024

Target Audience:

Women and men smallholder tea farmers in Mulanje and Thyolo Districts

Radio Programme:

"Tea Talk" on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Radio 1

Project Summary:

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries and most of the population live in rural areas. Tea is the country’s second biggest export crop and largest employer, with 50,000 people working in the sector. Over 93% of tea is produced by privately-owned tea estates. The remainder is grown by around 23,000 small-scale farmers. Sukambizi Association Trust (SAT) and Thuchila Tea Association (TTA) are Fairtrade certified, farmer-led associations with a combined total of around 20,000 smallholder tea farmer members (70% women).

Over a 13-month period between December 2022 and February 2024, 56 individual episodes of the Farmers’ Voice Radio programme, ‘Bwalo La Alimi’ (‘Tea Talk’), were recorded and produced in the local Chichewa language. The series was broadcast twice weekly on national radio station MBC Radio 1, reaching a potential audience of 18,500 listeners. Of these, an estimated 9,000 smallholder tea farmers and their families—both members and non-members of SAT and TTA, located across Mulanje and Thyolo Districts—benefited directly by listening to the programme at least once a month and adopting the recommendations shared by their peers.

The radio programme content focussed on four overarching objectives agreed by partners and farmer representatives in the start-up workshop, namely: 1) improving tea farming practices to increase yields, quality and income; 2) supporting resilience by promoting climate smart farming practices and encouraging diversification; 3) challenging gender norms and empowering women to take leadership roles; and 4) improving farmers’ knowledge of the tea market. During a three-month extension funded by ETP, the programme also looked in detail and afforestation and carbon financing in order to raise awareness of a new Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) initiative.

Monitoring and evaluation data point to positive changes in listeners’ knowledge and practices relating to quality and sustainable tea production, climate change awareness and adaptation, and gender equity. On the tea production side, farmers themselves as well as the factory manager receiving the tea deliveries noted the increase in volume and quality of the green leaf that farmers were selling over the project period. These increases are attributed at least in part to improvements in farmers’ plucking practices and in fertiliser application and have resulted in greater tea income for farmers over this season.

Lickson Mchepa, ETP Programme Manager in Malawi, noted the significance of this intervention in a context where there is limited outreach to tea farmers on the ground: “[We are] very much interested [in using radio in future] because currently ETP is implementing the same in Kenya and it has been so effective. In Malawi, radio is the only main tool to be used since the tea sector does not have extension workers.” Agnes Makosana of the Mulanje District Department of Forestry agreed: “Other methodologies are involving and expensive with little coverage. Farmer Field Schools require visiting the schools. Radio is time saving and they [the farmers] get information at the same time.”

With regard to climate change, the radio programme increased listeners’ understanding of the drivers and impacts of climate change, as well as the ability to adapt to these changes and make farming livelihoods more resilient. This is evidenced by a 15% rise in the proportion of farmers regularly implementing at least five recommended practices for climate change adaptation. In the three-month extension, the programme also served to raise farmers’ awareness of the new ETP PES project encouraging the planting of local tree species on tea farms. In the final evaluation interviews, farmers repeatedly stated that they “did not know the importance of growing trees in tea fields to add manure and retain moisture.

As well as greater knowledge and improvement in practice on farms, the radio programme also challenged prevailing attitudes and social norms relating to gender roles by bringing these discussions to a public platform. In the endline survey, 80% of female and 87% of male regular listeners felt that the knowledge learned from the Tea Talk programme had resulted in positive changes to relationships between men and women in households and the wider community. One listener said: “Women farmers are just like men farmers but used to do more work than men. Men used to focus on selling. The gender sensitization has changed the gender relations outlook. Men and women are moving towards working together in an equitable fashion. This is a process which may take longer to sink in some people.”

Through the network of 40 Radio Champions running weekly communal listening sessions with group listening Lifeplayer radios provided by the project, these benefits reached over 2,000 additional farmers (majority women) who would otherwise not have been able to access the radio programme. This aspect of implementation has built capacity for self-help within communities that will last well beyond the project lifetime.

The project ended with a high level of commitment amongst partners and wider sector stakeholders to keep the programme running. The broadcaster MBC has been hugely supportive, offering TV slots to complement the radio programme and extend its reach to a new audience. The MBC programme producer commented: “The whole programme was an investment, a good one for that matter, [but] the time period was not enough. People had just begun to feel good about the radio programme and its benefits. The recorded programmes should be rebroadcast and proceed from there.”

Mary Rabson is a 39-year-old single mother of two. She farms tea for a living on a smallholding of less than one acre and is a member of Sukambizi Association Trust in Nakulanje block.


In October 2022, Mary was selected as one of twelve Programme Reference Group (PRG) members responsible for generating content for the new Farmers’ Voice Radio programme, Tea Talk. About her selection, Mary commented, “it felt good; [I was] proud… At first [the PRG members] were fearing but with time they had confidence. Now many people know me.”

Through her experience with FVR Mary says she has gained knowledge about practices that can enhance tea productivity and quality. But most useful, she claims, has been her learning about how to adapt her farming to the impacts of climate change.

[I learned] the importance of growing trees in tea fields to add manure and retain moisture,” she says. “[I also learned that] diversification is good as if one crop fails then income can come from the other crops.” However, a shortage of land in her area can be a barrier to this diversification.

Beyond farming, Mary has observed that the radio programme has had an impact on how women and men relate to each other: “[There have been] big changes, as men and women have learnt to work together even at household level.”

Now that the project is coming to an end, Mary believes that the programme will leave a lasting legacy and is committed to continuing to do her part to share the benefits further: “I will continue sharing through the blocks using the capacity I have developed and the equipment we may still retain, like the radios.”

bottom of page