New partnership aims to improve lives of vanilla farmers

Unilever has collaborated in a new partnership to help benefit the lives of over 4,000 vanilla farmers and their wider communities in the Sava region of Madagascar.

Improving livelihoods

The three-year programme has been established between Unilever, supplier Symrise and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) – the world’s leading provider of international co-operation services for sustainable development.

It will touch 32 communities and involve 44 schools and colleges, giving it the potential to improve 24,000 lives in one of the world’s poorest nations.

Madagascar produces almost 80% of the world’s natural vanilla supply, with many farmers in the area reliant on vanilla for their livelihood.

However, the country is ranked as the 11th poorest nation in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund, and natural disasters such as tropical cyclones regularly affect agricultural output.

Improved education

The partnership will support the communities with improved access to secondary education for the children of vanilla farmers and farmer field schools both to increase vanilla productivity and to enhance crop diversification.

As a result, the farmers will be able to earn more money, improve their food self-sufficiency and sell other crops during lean periods.

Women smallholders

The project will provide equal opportunities 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 by women.

Symrise and Unilever have been working with smallholder farmers in the Sava region for a number of years and this partnership will accelerate plans on the ground.

It will also help Unilever manage the volatility of agricultural commodity supply and improve the quality of raw materials for brands such as Magnum, Breyers and Carte D’Or ice cream over the long term.

Understanding the benefits

Dhaval Buch, Chief Procurement Officer, says: “In our Sustainable Living Plan, we have set targets for engaging with smallholder farmers. The fact that this programme has a focus on agricultural entrepreneurs and prioritises women for training are both key elements.

“We will continue to monitor the programme to understand exactly how the farmers are benefiting from the work, so that we can make the right assessments and recommendations for the future.”

This public–private partnership is partly financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), which provides financial and professional support to companies investing in developing and emerging countries.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) – a federal enterprise in the field of international co-operation for sustainable development – will play a crucial role in how the programme is developed and monitored on the ground.

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