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Unilever, Symrise and GIZ join forces to support vanilla farmers


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London/ Rotterdam/ Holzminden/ Eschborn – Unilever, its supplier Symrise and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH today announced a partnership to improve the livelihoods of 4,000 vanilla farmers in the Sava region, Madagascar. This unique 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 one of the world’s poorest nations. The programme is partly financed within the framework of the programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Vanilla farmer in Madagascar

Partnership to positively impact thousands of vanilla farmers in Madagascar

Madagascar produces 79% of the world’s natural vanilla supply. Unilever uses vanilla as an ingredient in 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.

The programme will operate through farmer field schools to both increase vanilla productivity and also encourage crop diversification. As a result, farmers can earn more money from vanilla, improve their food self-sufficiency and also sell other crops during lean periods. Consequently it will enhance the farmers’ economic independence. The 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.

Partnerships crucial to drive positive change

Symrise and Unilever have been working with smallholder farmers in the Sava region for a number of years already, and this partnership will accelerate plans on the ground. GIZ, in this programme working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), is a German federal enterprise in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development which operates in more than 130 countries worldwide and draws on a wealth of regional and technical expertise. It will play a crucial role in defining how the program is developed and monitored.

A previous partnership between Symrise and GIZ from 2010 to 2012 in the Diana-Region of northern Madagascar has shown promising results: 500 farmers were trained on sustainable agricultural practices, fairtrade standards and principles of certification and marketing. They have increased their productivity and created greater income opportunities by expanding their production to include other crops. The economic situation of the farmers has greatly improved. On average, the 500 vanilla producers have benefited from a 24 % increase of their incomes.

Dhaval Buch, Chief Procurement Officer Unilever, said: “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. The fact that this programme has a focus on agricultural entrepreneurs and prioritizes 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.”

Symrise has been described as ‘passionate pioneers’ in the sustainable sourcing of vanilla. As the only fully integrated flavour manufacturer present in Madagascar, Symrise employees who live and work there are the friends and neighbours of the smallholder farmers. Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Bertram, CEO of Symrise AG explained: “We are very excited about the comprehensive development programme we have now set up together with our partners Unilever and GIZ. Sharing Values is at the heart of our corporate strategy. This renewed commitment is an opportunity to create value for all.”

About Symrise:

Symrise is a global supplier of fragrances, flavourings, cosmetic active ingredients and raw materials as well as functional ingredients. Its clients include manufacturers of perfumes, cosmetics, food and beverages, the pharmaceutical industry and producers of nutritional supplements.

Its sales of € 1.735 billion in 2012 place Symrise among the top four companies in the global flavours and fragrances market. Headquartered in Holzminden, Germany, the Group is represented in over 35 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the United States and Latin America.

Symrise works with its clients to develop new ideas and market-ready concepts for products that form an indispensable part of everyday life. Economic success and corporate responsibility are inextricably linked as part of this process. Symrise thus takes sustainability into account in every part of its corporate strategy. The company was awarded the German Sustainability Award in 2012. Symrise – always inspiring

About GIZ:

GIZ is a federal enterprise with operations around the globe. It supports the German Government in the fields of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. GIZ supports people and societies in shaping their own futures and improving their living conditions.


The partnership is partly financed within the framework of the program. was set up by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to foster the involvement of the private sector at the point where business opportunities and development policy initiatives intersect. Through the program, BMZ provides companies investing in developing and emerging countries with financial and, if required, also professional support.

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