12 November, 2015

Christmas in Malawi

by Anna Galandzij for the Fairtrade Foundation

In a series of blogs on Homemade with Fairtrade, which centres around seasonal baking and food provenance, we are asking people from around the world about how they celebrate festivals and public holidays in their communities.

Regina Joe is a sugar cane farmer and lives in Chinangwa, Malawi, with her two children - Maria Joe, 20, and Mphatso Joe, 15. She joined the Kasinthula Cane Growers Association (KCGA), a smallholder Fairtrade sugar cane project in 2010.  

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and so the benefits that Fairtrade offers, such as access to foreign markets, financial stability and the Fairtrade Premium (an extra sum of money that farmers and workers invest in business or community projects of their choice) are invaluable for the farmers, their families and the community.

When do you start preparing for Christmas? And how do you go about it?

Regina: I usually I start preparing for Christmas in December, but if funds are available, I could start preparations earlier, in November. The most important things I spend money on are: clothes for my kids and myself, and food.

Regina Joe making a Chigumu cake

Do you use baking equipment?

I normally use traditional pots for baking. The pots are made of clay and then baked in an oven. I don't have special baking utensils.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family in preparation for Christmas?

I normally go to buy food first, then I start cooking. Sometimes I call friends round to help me or I visit them. I like visiting my neighbours; we share food and dance together.

What is the most traditional sweet baked Malawian recipe? 

The most famous sweet baked Malawian recipe is our traditional Malawian Cake. It is made from maize flour or banana. The popular drink is called Thobwa, also made from maize. To make it, you mix maize flour with water and boil till it becomes thick. Then, you add 'maŵele' (millet flour), to make it a bit runny or watery. When the mixture cools down, you add some sugar and it is all ready to drink. My neighbour taught me how to make donoughts, and my mother, who is also a sugar cane farmer, also taught me to make traditional cakes. 

Do you bake with your children and if so what do you make with them?

Yes, we do. We involve young girls in Christmas preparations and baking. They can help pick ingredients and wash utensils during and after baking. 

And what is the most important sweet baked product you would eat?

The most important sweet baked food is Traditional cakes called Chigumu and Chikondamoyo. Another most popular Christmas dish is rice and chicken or rice with meat, such as beef or goat.
The sugar cane that you grow is stocked in Sainsbury’s stores across the UK. What would you like to say to Sainsbury’s customers?

I wish all our beloved Sainsbury's customers good luck this Christmas. I would like to make a special appeal to our customers: Please continue buying our sugar, because we benefit from it as a result.

When you think of your Fairtrade sugar being sold in the UK, what do you imagine the UK customer using your sugar for? Making sweet cake, tea, anything unusual?

I think our customers use our sugar for tea, baking, and brewing beer, and in porridge.

KCGA receives a Fairtrade Premium of $60/tonne for all Fairtrade sales. Premium funds have been invested in improving productivity and in healthcare, clean water, education and other projects to alleviate poverty in the community.


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