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Unilever, Symrise and GIZ partnership to support vanilla farmers in Madagascar

By Nathan Gray+

30-Jan-2014

Unilever, Symrise and GIZ partnership to support vanilla farmers in Madagascar

A new partnership aims to 'drive positive change' for farmers and rural communities that rely on vanilla farming whilst securing future vanilla supplies.

The partnership between manufacturing giant Unilever, flavour and fragrance supplier Symrise and the German society for international cooperation (GIZ), aims to improve the livelihoods of 4,000 vanilla farmers in the Sava region of Madagascar.

Madagascar produces 79% of the world’s natural vanilla supply - an ingredient used by Unilever in a variety of products including its leading ice cream brands, such as Magnum, Breyers and Carte D’Or.

The partnership aims to secure this vanilla supply for Unilever in the future and to support the farming communities with improved access to secondary education and training in agricultural best practices.

“In our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have set clear and ambitious targets for engaging with smallholder farmers, and this is a wonderful example of how we can help them improve their agricultural practices, to enable them to become more competitive," said Dhaval Buch, chief procurement officer for Unilever.  "The fact that this programme has a focus on agricultural entrepreneurs and prioritises women for training makes it even more valuable."

"For us, this is a key example of how a partnership can work to increase the positive social impact in our supply chain," he said.

Vanilla partnership

The development partnership includes a comprehensive three-year programme that will impact 32 communities and involve 44 schools and colleges, giving it the potential to improve 24,000 lives in Madagascar - one of the world’s poorest nations.

It will operate through farmer field schools to both increase vanilla productivity and also encourage crop diversification. As a result, farmers should earn more money from vanilla, improve their food self-sufficiency and also sell other crops during lean periods.

An 'integrated education program' will also support environmental education in primary schools through training teachers and providing teaching kits; and aims to establish a learning platform of rural agricultural colleges for vocational training of adolescents.

Throughout the project equal opportunities will be provided to women and girl students since they represent about 50% of the communities and are actively involved in farm management: between 20 and 30% of the farmer households are headed up by women.