Forbes Africa : Promoting Gender Equality, Quality And Sustainability

A family business run by women, Pure Vanilla is specialised in high-quality organic and fair trade Malagasy natural vanilla from cultivation to distribution.

Pure Vanilla is a family business based in Sambava, Madagascar, created by Naomy Rasolofonirina. Originally from the Sava region in Madagascar, her family has been operative in the vanilla business for several generations, with Naomy Rasolofonirina belonging to its third generation and the know- how in producing high quality vanilla rooted in a family heritage of growing and packaging vanilla for export.

After studying abroad and having tried several different business sectrs, Naomy Rasolofonirina opted to continue the work her parents had initiated. “I am deeply committed to vanilla, to its quality and, above all, I am committed to the ability of vanilla to create a fairly distributed income for all participants in the value chain,” she explains. Indeed, Pure Vanilla is actively committed to supporting the enhancement of women’s work in the vanilla sector, guaranteeing its superior quality through the professionalisation of women in rural areas. “We live in an extremely poor country, where women have no opportunity,” adds Rasolofonirina. “The fight against poverty is an absolute priority in the development strategy of Pure Vanilla. We are getting there gradually through the continuous improvement of working and salary conditions and through Pure Vanilla’s commitment as a corporate citizen that is concerned with the well-being of its employees, their families and that of partnering farmers,” adds Rasolofonirina.

Moreover, Pure Vanilla’s CSR policy places sustainable development at the heart of its priorities through capacity building for women. Proof of this can be seen in its variety of professional training programmes for women. “The objective of employing women is to make them financially independent so that they can plan their future and that of their children and that they can change their vision of themselves and to be treated with dignity and equitably,” states Rasolofonirina, while adding that her employees are paid over 50% more than other companies within the vanilla sector.

Over the past two years, Pure Vanilla has had to face two major challenges: price volatility in the market and the health crisis. “Sales have dropped substantially,” says Rasolofonirina. “Fortunately, our long-established American client, Nielsen- Massey Vanillas has stood by us, both for purchases and in the pursuit of our missions and social actions. I particularly want to thank them for their commitment, even during the peak in the pandemic crisis. Our joint efforts to build a true partnership has truly paid off.”

Recently, Pure Vanilla has also invested and devised a digital shift through the launch of its website coupled with a strong presence on social networks. “The use of digital commerce has enabled us to stay in direct contact with our regular customers and make them participants and witness to our activities,” declares Rasolofonirina.

Rasolofonirina believes that the AfCFTA agreement will further strengthen the com- petitiveness present in the vanilla market and deeply believes that Madagascar will be able to meet the challenge due to an investment in education. “This agreement can create centres of excellence and value chains for agriculture and vanilla for Madagascar and other countries,” she states. “In this way, we can develop our industrial base, industrialise and start the vanilla processing ac- tivity. Madagascar must accelerate its transformation of vanilla and this will offer the opportunity to transform this raw materi- al into products and provide Africa with a robust product, with much more added value.”

As a result of its fair-trade scheme, Pure Vanilla is providing and restoring an ecological balance while simultaneously supplying high quality vanilla. Against the backdrop of a rich and deep heritage, Pure Vanilla has planted the seeds of female empowerment and is reaping the results and tasting the success of a sustainable and ethical vision of vanilla production.

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