In the world’s capital of vanilla production, three in four farmers say it’s not enough to eat

Vanilla beans.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar, famous for its lemurs, is home to nearly 26 million people. Despite its cultural and natural abundance, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. With more than 70% of Madagascar’s people being farmers, food security has always been an issue. Rice is the most important food crop, but recently the internationally acclaimed crop, vanilla, has become the mainstay. Most of the world’s highest quality vanilla comes from Madagascar. Most Madagascar farmers live on less than $ 2 a day, but selling vanilla can make some farmers more wealthy than they dream, but these benefits come at a price. .. New research shows that it is not enough to overcome food insecurity.

In a paper published in the journal on June 25, 2021 Food security, A team of scientists working with Duke University in Madagascar, on the use of natural resources, agricultural practices, socioeconomics, and food Security.. A recently published article in the journal Food Security details the complex interactions between household demographics, agricultural productivity, and the potential for experiencing food shortages.

The team interviewed about 400 people in three remote rural areas known as the SAVA region, which is an acronym for the four major towns of Sambava, Andapa, Vohemar and Antalaha. The Duke University Remer Center has been involved in conservation and research activities in the SAVA area for 10 years. By partnering with local scientists, the team was able to fine-tune how it collects data on agricultural practices and food security. Both Madagascar partners are preparing graduate degrees and expanding their research to guide the next generation of local scientists.

The international research team found that a significant proportion of respondents (up to 76%) reported experiencing periods of inadequate food access in the last three years. The most common cause they reported was the small size of the land. Most respondents estimated that they own less than 4 hectares of land (

The vanilla market is susceptible to extreme fluctuations and prices fluctuate by orders of magnitude from year to year. Vanilla is also a laborious and time-consuming crop. It requires specific growing conditions such as soil, humidity and shade, and takes at least 3 years from planting to the first crop. In the absence of natural pollinators at the Mexican headquarters, Malagasy vanilla requires artificial pollination by farmers, and natural disasters such as disease outbreaks and cyclones can destroy the entire crop. In addition, the high prices of vanilla bring “hot spending” and a boom and bust cycle for poor farmers. Vanilla is often stolen because of its high prices, and farmers spend weeks in their fields to protect it. Pre-harvest thief. It can also lead to early harvesting of vanilla beans before they are fully ripe, degrading the quality of the final product and exacerbating price volatility.

In addition to the impact of agricultural productivity on the potential for food insecurity, studies have shown that household demographics, especially the number of people living in households, have an impact that interacts with land size. Farmers with large households (up to 10 in this sample) were more likely to experience food insecurity than small households only if they had less land ownership. Those larger families who had greater land ownership had the lowest food insecurity. These trends are documented in many similar situations, larger land tenure requires more workforce, and family workforce is important for achieving food sovereignty.

The results have important implications for the sustainable development of this system. The team found that increasing rice and vanilla productivity could significantly reduce food insecurity. Therefore, more emphasis should be placed on training in sustainable and reproducible practices. There is momentum in this direction and new national-level initiatives to improve rice production and increase farmers’ resilience to climate change. In addition, many international aid organizations and NGOs operating in Madagascar are already training farmers on new regenerative agriculture technologies. The Duke Lemur Center is partnering with a local university in the SAVA region to develop a regenerative agriculture technology dissemination service that can increase food production while maintaining and increasing biodiversity. With a grant from General Mills, the Ducremer Center has developed training modules and conducted workshops with more than 200 farmers to increase the adoption of regenerative agriculture techniques.

In addition, at the government level, farmers recognize that their small land tenure is the number one cause of food insecurity, so land ownership and infrastructure needs to be improved to secure land rights. Due to the current land ownership infrastructure, securing land certificates and ownership is largely inaccessible to rural farmers. This can provide little incentive to invest in land rights conflicts, anxieties, and longer-term sustainable agricultural strategies (eg, agroforestry).Farmers may be able to grow by securing ownership of their land and improving their ability to access agricultural extension services. Food security Not only will you be more productive, but you will also be more legally aware and protected.

To move forward as a global society, we must strive to achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the SDGs is Goal # 2, Zero Hanger. Nearly one billion people around the world do not have access to safe and nutritious foods. This must change if we expect sustainable development in the future. Focusing on some of the most difficult cases, Madagascar stands out as a country with a high rate of malnutrition, anemia and poverty in children. This year, the three-year drought has adversely affected more than one million people, creating a major famine and a serious need for external assistance. Sadly, these tragedies occur in one of the most biodiversity areas on Earth, with 80-90% of the species not found elsewhere on Earth. This paradox brings about a conflict between the conservation of natural resources and human well-being.

Achieving the UN SDGs is not easy. In fact, after the first decade, we are well below our goal. Over the next decade, we will decide whether we will achieve these goals, and our collective action as a global society will transform our society for a sustainable future. Decide whether to continue the self-destructive path we have followed. Further research and intervention is still needed to protect biodiversity and improve human life.

Food security after a pandemic

For more information:
James P. Herrera et al, Food Anxiety Related to Agricultural Practices and Household Characteristics in Rural Areas of Northeastern Madagascar, Food security (2021). DOI: 10.1007 / s12571-021-01179-3

Quote: In the world’s capital of vanilla production, three in four farmers say it’s not enough to eat (July 13, 2021). July 13, 2021 from world-capital-vanilla-production-farmers.html

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In the world’s capital of vanilla production, three in four farmers say it’s not enough to eat

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