Swiss chocolate producer Barry Callebaut and vanilla supplier Prova, supported by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), begin the second phase of their joint project to support vanilla farmers in Madagascar. The two companies will conduct training to boost productivity and improve the quality of Cocoa and vanilla while also funding the local communities through social, health, and educational activities.

According to Barry Callebaut, the project, which began in 2016 in Bemanevika, Madagascar, has been “a successful driver of 100% sustainable vanilla.”

Barry Callebaut’s partnership with Prova has “exceeded all expectations, and a second phase is now being launched,” the company reports, in spite of the difficulties brought on by tropical cyclone Enawo in 2017, fluctuating vanilla prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. The good agricultural practises (GAP) training on vanilla and Cocoa will also begin in the initiative’s second phase, and there will be more community-based social initiatives.

Benefiting Vanilla Farmers Amid Challenges

A crucial component of chocolate and confectionery products, vanilla has seen significant market instability in recent years, including limited supply and high prices.

Vanilla farmers in Madagascar rely heavily on the prices of vanilla in the market. Therefore, when prices are low, many people find it difficult to make ends meet. 

700 vanilla producers have so far benefited from the sustainability initiative. The crop diversification has been complemented by essential training programmes in GAP and financial resilience and independence.

To date, the project has provided over 100,000 seedlings to vanilla farmers along with tools and training to assist them to diversify their revenue, particularly during the five-month period when they generally have no income.

“This long-term project has shown the value of partnering with our main vanilla supplier to achieve positive change in a challenging environment.”

Massimo Selmo, Chief Procurement Officer, Barry Callebaut

“By combining our expertise in sustainability and Cocoa, we enabled farmers to diversify and grow their income. The success of the past five years has prepared the ground for further expansion of our partnership and our commitment to sustainable vanilla and Cocoa sourcing from Madagascar.” 

A Steady Initiative

In 2018, Barry Callebaut plants in Belgium, Italy, and France received the first batch of the initiative’s 100% traceable vanilla.

Since 2020, Barry Callebaut’s European facilities have only used vanilla extract that is completely sustainable.

The income diversification project on Madagascan Cocoa was first introduced to the Barry Callebaut supply chain in 2021.

Commitment to Sustainability

In 2023, a second fermentation facility is expected to be finished. For regions where the soil does not aid Cocoa cultivation, additional diversification options are being considered, including patchouli, livestock, poultry, and aquaculture.

A knowledge exchange programme between Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire, stemming from the first phase, started in April.

On a strategic level, Barry Callebaut and Prova have identified another pillar of action connected to climate change, including comprehending deforestation, mapping plants, monitoring environmental change, biodiversity, and food and water conservation.

Barry Callebaut is also taking additional steps in order to ensure that they have 100% sustainable ingredients in all of its products by 2025 as part of their Forever Chocolate campaign.

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