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Vanilla of Madagascar, durably produced at the foot of the rainforests

The famous vanilla of Madagascar, the main source of income for the communities of the SAVA region, recognized worldwide for its quality and taste is a community product.

Behind the particular aroma that we smell in perfumes or desserts, there is a producer, a family, a community very involved in the preservation of the rainforests; because to provide this renowned quality of vanilla, one needs healthy forests.

Rozafy Rasoaniriana, 47 years old, has been producing vanilla for 10 years in the forests of Andrafainkona, 100 km from Vohémar.
Before that, Rozafy produced rice, partly for self-consumption and the other to sell in the markets of the commune of Andrafainkona; but she did not live easily. On the other side, some of Rozafy's relations had improved their income, thanks to the production of vanilla, which persuaded her. 10 years after her first plantation, her revenue has improved significantly. But for this to last, she has to be very careful with her production methods and she needs everyone's contribution to preserve the rainforests, which are essential for a good vanilla culture. Indeed, a dry soil and climate is detrimental to vanilla crops. This is why vanilla is planted in the northern highlands of Madagascar, where the weather and ground are generally humid. "If these forests were to disappear, the vanilla industry could disappear, we can't plant on dry soil because it needs a lot of water and shade; the forests are indispensable to us," according to Rozafy. This is the reason why she also decided to join the community-based organization "Andrafainkona Miaro Tontolo Iainana" or AMTI, closely supported by WWF; to contribute directly to the sensitization of these peers on the importance of forests and to sustainably preserve the rainforests of this area, which are essential to their survival and well-being.

Vanilla production methods used by this community-based organization are designed to be adapted to climate change and the vanilla industry.  "With traditional techniques, the vanilla plantation is no longer productive after 5 years, which leads the producers to find and clear another plot. So, to avoid deforestation, we conducted several studies and adapted the technologies to be sustainable on the same plot," explains Herizo, from Helvetas, who is in charge of the technical support of the vanilla producers. Disease and insects are the main dangers to vanilla plantations; to fix these, producers have been trained to use « neem », an insecticidal plant, and to cultivate a variety of moisture-retaining grasses around the planted vanilla. Among the durable techniques, the alignment of crops to facilitate wind and water flow is also being promoted to producers. The producers are also accompanied in the process of accessing markets so that this source of income, vanilla, is sustainable, regularized and profitable for all stakeholders.

At the source of good vanilla productivity, the rainforests, which we celebrate every year on June 22, must be subject to good governance and maximum protection for the survival of communities and nature.