Partnering to Protect Biodiversity
Protecting ecosystems and biodiversity is a key outcome of the regenerative production systems pillar of McCormick’s Grown for Good Framework, and the focus of the Sustainable Vanilla for People and Nature (SVPN) activities in Madagascar. The projects are co-funded partnerships between USAID and McCormick, in which we work with local partners to create sustainably certified vanilla that is environmentally friendly.
We understand that in many cases farmer livelihoods and threats to biodiversity are intrinsically linked – to provide for their families, farmers may clear land or use other practices that damage ecosystems. The programs therefore take a holistic approach to incentivize sustainable sourcing practices by improving the resilience of farmers and their families while promoting sustainability standards that respect biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and sustainable cooperative governance.
The emphasis of the projects is to develop each farmers ability to manage the complex and richly biodiverse ecosystem in the SAVA region of Madagascar, while improving their livelihood. Firstly, farmers are trained in good agricultural practices and implement systems and standards which result in third-party verified sustainability certification.
Secondly, they are provided with the tools to diversify their income to mitigate the impact various factors may have on the value of their crops. This includes income diversification programs for farmer resilience, such as beekeeping, which help to reduce pressure on the environment. Finally, farmers are supported in the setup of a jointly owned and controlled cooperative, which enables groups of farmers to add value to their crops through curing locally and collectively sell their vanilla at a higher price, removing the need for intermediaries.
One of the cooperatives formed is called “Mahavelona”, which means “Bring Life”. Rafazy is a coop member and has already seen the benefits of the program: “People in my cooperative are so motivated,” he said. “We now grow vanilla sustainably, using methods in harmony with the forest. Our vanilla has been certified as being produced sustainably. As a result, we now earn a premium price for our products.”
The project includes training in farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR), a forestry technique that protects and manages the natural growth of trees or shrubs by designating a selected area not to be touched for a certain period. The idea is to regenerate degraded land back into productivity. With the cooperative members, areas of land to be restored are selected, and farmers and group leaders are trained to manage the restoration of the land and monitor it over 3-6 months. “We demonstrated that we are good stewards of the forest,” says Rafazy. “We do not cut trees and we do not use any chemicals. As a result of the training, we are now protecting the rainforest.”
Since the project began, around 50 tree nurseries have been established which produced more than 140,000 forest seedlings and 12,000 cash crop trees in 2022. Multiple reforestation events were conducted, during which over 94,000 tree seedlings were planted. By growing vanilla in harmony with the forest, the program is also aiming to increase greenhouse gas sequestration.
As the project is progressing, we’re tracking the positive impact it is having on the people who grow our vanilla, the communities in which they live, and the planet we all share. Rafazy is hopeful about the future: “We now have better incomes and a better quality of life. I know that forest restoration will take time, but I am confident that with more and more farmers embracing sustainable vanilla farming, the next generation will see the forests thrive again.”