Giving back to the vanilla growers of Madagascar

Madagascar – the vanilla capital of the world

Vanilla. What would we do without it? For a start, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy many of the cakes and biscuits that we do!

Vanilla is one of the most popular and recognisable flavours in the world. Second only to chocolate, vanilla accounts for 5.5% of global desserts and ice cream launches. Mintel GNPD data reveals that in 2016 alone there were 4,077 new launches using vanilla extract, the majority from Madagascan vanilla beans. 

But whilst we enjoy our cakes, ice creams or yoghurts, we rarely think of the people who work so hard to produce the essential vanilla beans, many of whom live in poverty.

Last year, vanilla hit the headlines after adverse weather conditions caused a poor harvest and the prices skyrocketed.

Despite producing 80% of the world’s vanilla (the second most expensive spice) Madagascar remains one of the poorest countries on the planet, and in 2015 was ranked number 10 on the poverty index by The World Bank

Synergy has over 100 years of vanilla heritage and as buyers of large quantities of vanilla; we have a responsibility to ensure our supply chain is responsibly and sustainably managed, in both environmental terms and social and humanitarian terms.

Here at Synergy we recognise that sustainability is absolutely vital and that every business has a duty to pull their weight.

So what are we doing about it?

To many, sustainability is defined by environmental commitments such as carbon offsetting, but it is about so much more than that. Whilst environmental sustainability is of course tremendously important to the long-term future of Madagascar (the devastation of last year’s vanilla crop by adverse weather is testament to that) human and social sustainability are perhaps even more important to the short term future of the country.

At present, many children in the SAVA region (the world’s vanilla capital) of Madagascar do not have access to basic education, and those schools that do exist in the region are often overcrowded and fail to meet acceptable health and hygiene standards.

Working with the Madagascar Development Fund, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which partners with charitable organisations and individuals to help finance and manage development projects throughout Madagascar, our colleagues at Synergy Flavors Inc. in the US, have provided funding to build and furnish two new schools.

The two schools were opened in late 2016 near Sambava in the SAVA region of Madagascar and will help provide new opportunity for the families of vanilla growers in the region.

The project involves the construction of 2 three-classroom, weatherproof buildings equipped with furniture including benches for the students and desks for the teachers.

The construction of these new school buildings for Besopaka and Ambohitrakongona primary schools will provide facilities to accommodate hundreds of additional children who were previously unable to attend school due to lack of space.

Protecting Madagascar’s future

In vanilla terms, Madagascar is synonymous with quality and authenticity, and for a long time the country has been a source of vanilla for both Synergy and the world.

There remains a huge amount that still needs to be done to alleviate poverty in Madagascar, but investing effectively in the region, will help us ensure that the next generation of Malagasy growers are given an education and an opportunity to thrive.

Madagascan vanilla represents the global hallmark for quality in vanilla and projects like these allow us to give back to the community of growers that have been so important to Synergy’s success.

Synergy: a century of vanilla expertise 

Here at Synergy we have a long tradition of vanilla extraction and expertise, which is why in 2015 we were the subject of a short documentary segment on vanilla for The One Show, hosted by vanilla aficionado and Great British Bake-off winner Nadia Hussain which you can watch below: