Mabale Growers Tea Factory Ltd
Product focus: Black tea
Location: Kyenjojo District, Uganda
Type: Small scale producer – 3,600 farmers & 700 workers
Fairtrade certificate since: 2000
Contact: Joseph Ayebazibwe– /

Although less affected than countries in Southern Africa, an estimated 2.3 million people (6.6% of the total population) live with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Unlike in most other countries, the Ugandan government has played an active role and effective public campaigns have contributed to a decline of the HIV pandemic over the past years. Mabale Growers Tea Factory is working together with the government to create a bigger impact on its farmers, workers and the community at large. Statistics show that for every 10 people who come for HIV testing at Mabale, 3 people are found to be HIV positive.

The Mabale Growers Tea Factory Health Centre provides free HIV/AIDS testing and counselling. The centre is not only open to Mabale farmers and workers but also offers its services to the wider community. When the Ugandan government decided to extend its health services by setting up co-funding partnerships with already existing privately owned clinics, Mabale was identified in a feasibility study as a suitable partner. With government support the Mabale health centre was able to improve its infrastructure, resulting in a status-3-upgrade so that patients henceforth could be admitted. In addition, the clinic is receiving an on-going monthly grant which (partly) covers free HIV-treatment and the government supplies Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

Mabale has also set up programmes to help sensitize its farmers and workers. When new staff members are recruited, the induction training includes HIV/AIDS issues. Staff is educated on prevention awareness and notified of anonymous testing possibilities at the clinic. The factory has also set up a health club where workers and producers can come together once a week to discuss openly on health issues. HIV/AIDS is one of the main topics of discussion.

Mabale used its Fairtrade Premium to establish the clinic. The organisation receives a monthly government grant of 600,000 UGX (or 210 USD) to buy drugs, although it spends a minimum of three million UGX (or 1050 USD) on drug procurement per month.

The impact of all these projects is difficult to measure as HIV/AIDS still has a big stigma and anonymity is one of the key conditions to the success of the campaign. However, the willingness of workers and staff to participate in voluntary HIV testing and counselling is quite impressive. The success of the health club – 80% of the coop’s workers and staff are attending the weekly meetings – also proves there is a need for a platform where producers can discuss the topic freely without being stigmatised. The main challenge remains how to reach the farmers. Many of the farmers know little about prevention or even prefer not to know if they are HIV positive.