Vanilla sector leaders collaborate to support COVID-19 prevention and safety at green bean markets

In anticipation of the official opening last month of Madagascar’s 2020-2021 vanilla campaign, a consortium of local and international vanilla sector stakeholders came together in early May to purchase personal protection equipment (PPE) for distribution to green bean markets across the region, to help in the country’s fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

As the novel coronavirus began to threaten Madagascar and other countries in the region, the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI) and its local partners – the Madagascar Vanilla Exporters Group (GEVM) the German development agency, GIZ,  and the SVI/ILO SAVABE Project– enlisted the help of vanilla exporters and importers to devise a strategy for equipping all green bean markets in the region with face masks, hand-washing stations and public service posters to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Each year, the start of the vanilla season brings with it a flurry of activity, as  farmers who choose to sell through local vanilla bean markets converge on one of over 800 set up across the region. Hundreds of farmers travel each day from their homes to centralized green bean markets, where they register and weigh their yields with local officials and negotiate sales with buyers known as “collectors”.

Together, this collaboration to support the sector in COVID prevention purchased and delivered needed PPE, including 100,000 masks, soap, 2,500 washing stations and 5,000 orange vests to denote village security committee members responsible for regulating the safe flow of the market .  Due to lockdown measures that currently forbid air and road travel to the region, the materials arrived by boat in Antalaha during the opening week of the campaign. “We could not have done this without the coalition of international and local actors who organized everything in a short period of time, raised the funds and coordinated the preparations on the spot,” said SVI’s Jan Gilhuis.  Along with the materials arriving by boat, the partners designed and printed public service posters to encourage hand washing, social distancing, mask wearing (including a tutorial on how to make your own mask) and other preventive methods.

Local exporters and GEVM officials arranged for the allocation and delivery of the materials to each district capital, where district officials will continue the distribution to the markets. “The SVI has not hesitated to work closely with GEVM to make this a sectoral response in which each has made its contribution with enthusiasm,” said Georges Geeraerts, Director-General of Madagascar-based food exporting company SOPRAL, and president of GEVM. “We all hope that this will protect the health of the population there.”


SVI would like to thank the following the companies, organizations and regional authorities for contributing to the success of this effort: SVI member companies Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Touton, McCormick, Unilever, Symrise, and Virginia Dare Extracts and Flavor; the GEVM, with the individual participation of exporters SOPRAL, Somava, Soarary, BioVanilla, and Promabio, and international organizations, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zusammearbeit (GIZ Madagascar) through the Mihavana and Fandriaka Projects and the SVI/ International Labor Organization (ILO Madagascar) SAVABE Project and its donor US Department of Labor. And special thanks to SAVA Governor Tokely Justin, the staff of the Regional Directorate of Public Health (DRS), and the staff of the Regional Vanilla Platform (PRCP SAVA).