Global vanilla manufacturer PROVA is sponsoring a programme that is transforming the lives of children in Madagascar. Take a look at what's being achieved.
In a small town in the north of Madagascar, at the mouth of the Bemarivo river in the Sava, a thousand< schoolchildren are having their lives changed. For many years, the living conditions of vanilla planters and their families have been tough, and many families are often forced to send their children to school having eaten nothing.
But things are changing. Three days a week – on Mondays,Wednesdays and Fridays – the courtyard of four public primary schools in the district of Bemanevika is transformed.
Pupils eat koba, an enriched, maize-based flour known for its high nutritional content. "The children have empty stomachs, and it can affect their school results," says Mary Theophile, director of the Ambatojoby primary school. "But after eating koba, they have energy and concentration, and perform much better at school."
The nutritional programme – largely funded by PROVA and one of the co-founders of the NGO Vanille Durable Bemanevika (VDB) – was set up in 2013 as part of a campaign to support farmers and families involved in vanilla production.
"The planters have been cultivating vanilla for years but have not really benefitted from this resource," says Ykbal Hiridje, CEO of Trimeta, one of the companies involved in the programme.
"This has to change," says Alessandra Lerouvillois, chief sustainability officer of PROVA. "Our objective is to enable the villagers and planters to become stakeholders in their own development, take ownership of these projects and ensure their long-term sustainability. All our efforts are working towards this."
Vanilla and beyond
As well as improving the diet of primary school children in Bemanevika, VDB has invested in health record books for every pupil. "It will enable doctors to efficiently monitor their health and pick up any problems," says Sabine Helisoa, education and health coordinator.
And it doesn't end there. VDB has funded a library in the local area, with books provided by collections from PROVA. You can find novels by Alfred Hitchcock, comic books, local newspapers and even a publication on the history of the 1947 Madagascan insurrection – the only copy in the whole region.
As one of the world's premier manufacturers of vanilla extracts and flavours, PROVA's approach to sustainability and its association with VDB is extremely important. Not only does it guarantee the well-being of the Bemanevika villagers, but with such a strong, active local presence, it also ensures a livelihood enhancement and secures a sustainable supply of vanilla.