Producer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa Barry Callebaut and premier manufacturer of vanilla extracts and flavours Prova are joining forces to launch a novel project in Madagascar.
The new joint project aims to combine Barry Callebaut’s long-standing cocoa expertise with Prova’s proven local vanilla know-how to create synergies. The programme will focus on making local vanilla farmers’ income more resilient and less dependent on the highly volatile vanilla market.
The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) will support the project with expertise and financing.
The aim is to diversify and stabilise revenues of vanilla farmers through the introduction of cocoa farming. With additional services, the project will also increase levels of vanilla curing at the farm level and support the adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP).
The joint project’s activities are expected to improve the livelihoods of vanilla farmers located in the district of Bemanevika, Madagascar. In return, the activities are playing an important role in Barry Callebaut’s and Prova’s efforts to extend the sourcing of sustainable vanilla and cocoa.
Both Barry Callebaut and Prova will fund and support local communities through social, health and education programmes.The project will run over the next five years, with first results regarding the newly introduced cocoa production expected after three years.
Chief sustainability officer at Prova Alessandra Ognibene-Lerouvillois said: “The cocoa and vanil
la synergy is an ancient love story that dates back to the Aztecs, thousands of years ago. Witnessing this marriage in the field, helping farmers to improve their livelihoods is a big achievement. We are excited to embark on this journey with Barry Callebaut.
“Together, we will initiate the cultivation of cocoa! Our objective is to enable the planters to become stakeholders in their own development, take ownership of these projects and ensure their long-term sustainability. All our efforts are working towards this goal.”
Sustainability manager of global sourcing at Barry Callebaut Oliver von Hagen commented:
“We are very happy to partner with Prova on this exceptional project. Vanilla is a key ingredient for us when making chocolate. This project will support farmers in being prepared for a less favourable future vanilla market.
“It also helps us as a company, securing a significant amount of our vanilla needs from a sustainable source. We are also very pleased that IDH fully supports our intentions and work on the ground. Altogether, this will complement and strengthen the efforts of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI) where we also are an active member.”
Senior programme manager at IDH Jan Gilhuis added: “This is a unique and promising collaboration of experienced supply chain partners, bringing joint investments and technical knowledge on two distinct and valuable commodities together in the promotion of farm income diversification and sustainable farming.”
Reducing the sole dependency on vanilla
With around 80,000 vanilla producers, Madagascar is one of the most important producers of vanilla globally. Although vanilla is referred to as the world’s most popular taste and second most expensive spice in the world, it is also one of the most labour-intensive crops.
The vast majority of farmers are smallholders situated in the Sava region of northern Madagascar. The rather precarious livelihood of vanilla planters is mainly due to their sole dependency on vanilla and the lack of financial support. Vanilla is harvested and sold from July to December, leading to an income gap of at least five months. Cocoa can be harvested throughout the year, helping vanilla farmers to diversify and stabilise their income situation, while reducing dependency on the extremely volatile vanilla market.
Through the new project, the involved parties also aim to anticipate future phases with lower vanilla market prices and protect the economic situation of the local vanilla producers.
Introducing the cultivation of cocoa
The joint project of Barry Callebaut and Prova aims to promote crop diversification as a solution to income insecurity by training farmers in the cultivation of cocoa. So far, only a handful of farmers are cultivating cocoa in the Sava region, but a recent feasibility study conducted by VDB has shown that the Sambava area was suitable for growing cocoa.
Although Barry Callebaut does not own cocoa farms, the company has a vast knowledge and is a specialist in cocoa farming.
Barry Callebaut will bring this long-standing cocoa expertise into the common project to reinforce farmers’ knowledge on GAP and to grow cocoa efficiently and sustainably.
Fine or flavour cocoa and vanilla grown in Madagascar
Cocoa grown in Madagascar is certified as ‘Fine or Flavour Cocoa’ by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO). It has particular flavour profiles, which make it interesting for users of premium cocoa. The price for Madagascar cocoa is higher and more stable than the international cocoa prices.
Barry Callebaut uses a significant amount of vanilla extract and flavours for its different chocolate factories worldwide. Prova has been a trusted vanilla supplier to Barry Callebaut for many years. Both companies are supporting the SVI, a platform bringing together all the stakeholders of the vanilla sector. Its mission is to promote sustainable production and sourcing in natural vanilla while improving the social and environmental conditions of smallholder farmers, through a combined effort.
Vanilla is a key ingredient when making chocolate (next to cocoa, sugar and milk powder). Vanilla is grown in Madagascar, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, India and Uganda.