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Equal opportunities for women in vanilla farming in Madagascar

In January 2014, we signed a development partnership with our supplier Symrise and German development agency GIZ to source vanilla from Madagascar.

This partnership is expected to have a significant positive social impact on the farming communities involved, potentially benefiting 4,000 farmers in 32 farming villages. When we also take into account our work on improving access to primary education, the programme has the potential to benefit 24,000 people.

Partnership with Symrise and German development agency GIZ

In January 2014, we signed a development partnership with our supplier Symrise and German development agency GIZ to source vanilla from Madagascar.

Madagascar produces 79% of the world’s natural vanilla supply. Unilever uses vanilla as an ingredient in its ice cream brands, such as Magnum, Breyers and Carte D’Or.

This partnership is expected to have a significant positive social impact on the farming communities involved, potentially benefiting 4,000 farmers in 32 farming villages. When we also take into account our work on improving access to primary education, the programme has the potential to benefit 24,000 people.

Farmer field schools

The programme operates through farmer field schools to increase vanilla productivity and encourage crop diversification. This means that farmers can earn more money from vanilla and improve their food self-sufficiency, as well as selling other crops during lean periods. As a result, it will enhance economic independence among farmers. The integrated education programme will also support environmental education in primary schools by training teachers in the subject and providing them with teaching kits. It aims to establish a learning platform of rural agricultural colleges for vocational training of adolescents.

Throughout the project, equal opportunities are 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.

One of the project’s objectives is to improve and document our understanding of the complex vanilla farming systems and the underlying socio-economic conditions. The project will ascertain what impact the measures taken are having.

Economically sustainable farm model

A tool known as The Economically Sustainable Farm Model (ESFM) has been adopted. Using the data collected as part of the project, the model provides a comprehensive overview of the economics of the farming system, the productivity and profitability of vanilla production and the degree of diversification of income sources.

To reach this overview, vanilla production is compared to the main alternative crops and sources of income in the region. The ESFM tool benchmarks the household income of vanilla famers against the poverty line and indicates if farmers and their families are able to meet their basic needs. Besides capturing the current situation, the tool is used to model the impact on an average farming household of changes in the price of vanilla as a commodity and the impact of any variation in productivity.

An analysis using EFSM is expected to be done every two years at least, in order to monitor the farmer income over time together with the impact of the overall project on household incomes. The ultimate goal is to build more resilient and self-sufficient communities.

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