Partnership to support vanilla farmers scaled up

Vanilla supplier Symrise, Unilever and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have joined forces with Save the Children to help improve the livelihoods of vanilla farming communities in the Sava region of Madagascar.

The three-year initiative aims to address some of the complex social and economic issues impacting people working in the vanilla supply chain and their families. It will support farmers, as well as the wider community, to improve their livelihoods, build more inclusive communities and provide better opportunities for their children.

The programme, which is partly financed through the programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), plans to reach 50,000 people in 10,000 households, across 70 villages. An estimated 70% of people in these communities live below the poverty line and have very unstable incomes.

Working with local NGO partners, the project aims to deliver support for farmers to improve their farming practices and business skills; improved access to fair financial services to ensure households have more stable incomes to meet their basic needs, as well as a safety net to fall back on; and community education on health, hygiene and child protection practices, to help improve the lives of children.

Symrise, Unilever and GIZ have been working together since 2013 to support vanilla farmers, and have trained nearly 3,000 farmers to increase their productivity and diversity of crops. Save the Children will help increase the scale and impact of the programme by engaging more people in these communities, notably young people and children, and the most vulnerable households.

As part of the programme, the partners will also carry out research to understand how the vanilla industry affects children’s lives. The findings will be used to engage with the wider vanilla industry to support improved market practices.

“We have seen some strong results in the last three years of the programme, but there is more to be done,” said Dhaval Buch, chief procurement officer at Unilever. “Strategic partnerships are critical to helping us meet our goal of positively impacting the lives of 5.5 million people, including smallholder farmers, by 2020.

“Working together, and using the strength and expertise of each partner, is essential if we are to achieve the level of transformative change that is necessary across the industry.”

Jo Grace, head of hunger reduction and livelihoods at Save the Children, added, “By combining Save the Children’s global expertise in understanding and meeting the needs of vulnerable children and their families, and the experience of our partners working in the vanilla supply chain, we aim to develop a model that contributes towards building a strong and sustainable vanilla supply chain for the future, whilst delivering concrete improvements in the lives of poor children.”

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