Through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, NCBA CLUSA is doubling down on its efforts to strengthen market-oriented vanilla cooperatives, increase incomes for vanilla farmers and create a more sustainable value chain with the Increasing Vanilla Value Chain Competitiveness project in Madagascar. This $100,000 USAID-funded project runs until October 2017 and leverages financial and technical support from a public-private partnership with a national vanilla exporter and a Fortune 1000 company.
Madagascar is the world’s largest exporter of vanilla, but challenges including volatile markets, crop resilience in the wake of natural disasters and security issues such as harvest theft threaten global supply of the spice. These setbacks particularly impact smallholder farmers—Hurricane Enawo last month destroyed up to 80 percent of vanilla vines for some smallholder farmers.
To address these challenges and strengthen the economic opportunities for smallholder vanilla farmers, the overall goal of the project is to increase the export of quality Madagascar vanilla to the U.S. by modernizing smallholder farmer value chain management and facilitating the adoption of a sustainable vanilla value chain model so smallholder farmers can capture more of the value of their product. Through training on improved production technologies and value chain management, the project aims to increase the value of vanilla exports to the U.S. by $300,000 USD.
Through the project’s public-private partnership with financial support from the Fortune 1000 company and technical assistance from the national exporter, vanilla curing and storage facilities will be established so that cooperative member farmers can increase the value and quality of their product and earn higher incomes from the direct sale of their vanilla to the exporter. Proper curing of vanilla increases harvest values as curing is a value-add activity, and proper storing decreases theft. Directly selling to the exporter also protects smallholder farmers from intermediate buyers, who frequently offer farmers below-market prices.
The project will also train smallholder farmers in improved harvesting, post-harvest handling and processing techniques, and support the cooperatives with improved data collection and management technology and the development of a vanilla origin traceability system. Traceability is paramount for exporters, buyers and consumers interested in high value and fair trade crops.
Partnering with our other initiatives in the region, NCBA CLUSA currently provides technical support to vanilla farmers and cooperatives through the USAID Fararano project, led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the Madagascar Farmer-to-Farmer project, led by Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA).
The Hub and Farmer-to-Farmer projects are integrally linked as Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers work directly with two vanilla cooperatives supported by the Hub. By providing targeted training and cooperative development expertise, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers are building the cooperatives’ management and governance capacity to more effectively engage members and provide them added benefits. A recent volunteer—with extensive experience in Madagascar’s vanilla industry—supported one of the newly formed cooperatives in establishing a membership dues structure that will allow the co-op to become self-sustained, implement community development projects and provide fair loans to its member farmers during lean periods.
The Hub is working in two regions with over 200 smallholder farmers in two cooperatives to increase incomes and improve vanilla quality in Madagascar.