Better living conditions for vanilla producers in Madagascar in exchange for premium quality and sustainably grown vanilla – that’s the idea behind the development partnership between Symrise AG, the consumer goods company Unilever and the German development agency GIZ. Symrise is the world’s fourth biggest producer of flavours and fragrances, and Unilever is one of its major customers and purchases large quantities of vanilla.
Although real Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar generates high prices on the world market, the smallholder families who cultivate this highly sought spice by hand in a painstaking, labour-intensive process are barely able to earn a living from it. If harvests and quality turn out worse in a given year, growers quickly fall into hardship, as vanilla is virtually their sole source of income.
Annual fluctuations in the volume and quality of vanilla have caused repeated problems for the purchaser Symrise, too. Together with Unilever, the company therefore decided to cooperate directly with the smallholders and to join a three-year development partnership within the scope of the develoPPP.de programme. In 2016, the partners brought Save the Children on board.
With GIZ’s backing, the partners have been providing support for around 7,000 smallholders and their families in one of the poorest regions in the world since 2014. The aim is to empower approximately 10,000 families to improve their livelihoods and, in return, for the companies to receive premium quality vanilla from sustainable crops. The development partnership revolves around practice-oriented training delivered on the ground at model farms, the establishment of farmer field schools where people can learn about cultivating vanilla and further training for teaching staff in order to foster environmental awareness in primary schools.
To date, more than 5,000 farmers in 70 villages have learned how to sustainably raise the yield and quality of vanilla, and thus boost their sales earnings. They are also learning to grow other crops that will make them less dependent on vanilla and better able to feed their families in the long term.
In the course of the development partnership, three agricultural colleges have been set-up with more than 180 trainees between them. Moreover, the number of low-yield months has already fallen from five to three. By the end of the project, at least 70 percent of the smallholders are to have increased their vanilla production by up to 40 percent per hectare.
“We are delighted at the comprehensive development programme that we have initiated with our partners Unilever and GIZ. Sustainable added value constitutes the core of our corporate strategy. The increased engagement generated through this partnership gives us an opportunity to create value for everyone”, said Dr Heinz-Jürgen Bertram, Chairman of the Management Board, Symrise AG.
The partnership will run until October 2019.