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Vanilla in Madagascar: Increasing income while preserving rich ecosystems

Rakota, a vanilla producer for Symrise in Madagascar.

Rakota, a vanilla producer for Symrise in Madagascar.


Rakoto lives in the SAVA region of Madagascar and is one of 7,000 farmers in 98 villages that produce vanilla for Symrise, a global fragrance and flavouring company whose Madagascar division has held UEBT certification for its sourcing of vanilla since 2017.  Vanilla is one of the world’s most valued spices, used in everything from baked goods to the finest perfumes, and 80% of it is grown in this small island country off the coast of Southern Africa.

Rakoto is a skilled smallholder who, for many years, has pollinated vanilla orchids by hand on his remote vanilla farm that is more than two hours walk from his home through steep forest.

His farm resembles the rich forest surrounding it, except that his vanilla plants have wrapped their meter-long tendrils and green leaves around the trees.  Because vanilla flowers may only open for one day, Rakoto’s care of these plants can be quite labor-intensive.

In 2016, Symrise Madagascar joined UEBT, following their Brazil division’s work with UEBT on natural ingredients from the Amazon. The company has now developed extensive support programs for smallholders that grow vanilla.  Their UEBT certification, achieved as part of their own commitment to biodiversity, attests that their vanilla is ethically sourced from farming villages and that the company is creating shared value for local people. 

Learn more about the UEBT standards.

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