Working together to ensure better living conditions for vanilla farmers
In collaboration with the Unilever food corporation and the state-run German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Symrise has been supporting vanilla farmers in Madagascar since 2013. A new partner will be joining us at the beginning of 2017: The Save the Children organization, which has been fighting for children’s rights and protection around the world for more than 90 years. The joint initiative should reach 50,000 people in 10,000 households in more than 70 villages, of which some 70 % live below the poverty line and with highly unstable income.
Funded by the develoPPP.de program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the initiative will improve the economic base for families, education for children and environmental protection over the next three years. Only then can the cycle of poverty that has affected families for generations be broken.
Commitment to the farmers and their families
More than 30,000 people in 90 villages now benefit from the various measures initiated, financed and promoted by Symrise – either alone or in collaboration with partners such as the Unilever food corporation and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). There’s a whole host of examples of social, environmental, economic and educational projects. For instance, Symrise distributed 250,000 seedlings to farmers to ensure that they and their families have enough to eat. The company also distributed 234 tons of rice, which is the most important food staple in Madagascar. More than 10,000 people also enjoy the benefits of health insurance, which the Group initiated and supports financially.
Symrise organizes and finances training courses for farmers in order to familiarize them with sustainable cultivation methods and thus to preserve nature, as well as with tree nurseries to ensure the supply of vanilla alternatives. To improve education for children, the company supports 76 elementary schools and three schools with a focus on agriculture. And finally, the company has designed its own factory in Madagascar to be as sustainable as possible: The wastewater is biologically purified, while biomass – sourced from the trees planted by the company – is used to generate steam.
The new products fit in with this strategy. They’re grown locally and processed directly by the farmers using the distillation systems, which a team of Symrise engineers has thoroughly examined. “This allows us to avoid the transport of raw goods, which has two benefits: The quality of the materials is maintained and we reduce CO2 emissions by moving only a fraction of the mass from one place to another,” says Benoît Join.
These products offer maximum diversity and top quality. They’re generated – and this is new – in various regions of the island, which have very different microclimates and thus growing conditions. In the region where vanilla primarily grows, for example, the farmers now also grow vetiver. The robust, sweet grass is used to distill an intensively woody and earthy-smelling oil for perfumes. “We’re now looking for even more farmers who can produce that for us,” explains Benoît Join. The benefits for the farmers are significant: “Vetiver grows without requiring much time and effort from the growers and, with its deep roots, it holds the soil in place, thus preventing erosion and helping to maintain habitats.” And its deep roots also make it more difficult to steal – theft of the vanilla harvest is always a problem.
We’re expanding the range of raw materials to include ginger, cinnamon and geranium.Benoît Join, Responsible for innovations in the Oral Care business unit and natural raw materials