Tsara Kalitao (Madagascar)
Few crops require as much care and patience as vanilla. The vanilla flower must be hand pollinated and produces a single fruit, which must then be handpicked at its optimum stage of maturity. It is a labour-intensive process that takes time and expertise and many farmers are smallholders who are solely dependent on the vanilla crop for their livelihood.
Madagascar, is the world's largest producer of natural vanilla but is among the poorest of the world's nations and many of the regions 80,000 vanilla farmers survive on less than $2 per day. In early 2014, Kerry Group partnered with our supplier, who specialise in the cultivation and distribution of natural vanilla, to build a more sustainable supply chain.
Together we have set up the 'Tsara Kalitao' Project, which translates as 'Good Quality' in Malagasy and at its core focusses on training farmers to produce better quality vanilla beans and increase their revenue.
In addition to paying an initial premium for their green vanilla beans, Kerry and a team of agronomists have set up workshops with the farmers showing them growing techniques, pollination methods and ways of maturing the harvested vanilla bean. We work closely with the farmers in delivering the results of vanillin content to explain the quality of their harvest and showing them how to achieve a better yield.
The farmers are also encouraged to be more proactive in protecting their crops and are shown ways to secure their vanilla plantation. A neighbourhood watch group has been established, consisting of local farmers, who patrol the plantations every night during the harvesting period. The farmers are equipped with surveillance supplies to monitor the beans overnight, to check on the crops and prevent theft.
Empowerment of Women
Among the broader goals of the project is the empowerment of women, who are considered the pillar of the community and make up a third of the harvesting workforce. Kerry, working with an NGO, developed an educational programme showing the village women how to diversify their income by building coops, breeding and keeping chickens. The next step is to offer them training on income management so they have less financial issues during low income periods. This will help them avoid selling their beans during months when they receive a lower yield.
One of the biggest concerns for the farmers is their children’s education. Over 50% of children drop out post elementary school. It is important to the farmers that their children have access to a good education, improving their opportunities for their future. Farmers often sell their crops to pay for food and to put their children through school. As part of a new initiative we will support families on the programme by alleviating some of those pressures. We will provide funding for books, stationery and training for the teachers, ensuring the children’s education is improving and develop a more robust system.