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The Vanilla Growers Association of Vava’u achieved Fairtrade certification in 2014, making it the first farmer association in the small island state of Tonga to meet Fairtrade Standards for social and environmental performance, as well as business accountability and transparency.
The Vanilla Growers Association of Vava’u (VGA) was formed in 2013 with the aim to contribute to the rehabilitation of farmers’ vanilla gardens on the Tongan island of Vava’u. With the support of its partner Queen Fine Foods, VGA is working to position its name as a producer of high quality vanilla, and looks forward to selling its product as Fairtrade and organic certified in order to bring sustainable returns to its members. VGA is made up of 168 vanilla growing members, all of whom rely on production of vanilla for their livelihoods.
VGA green vanilla on the vine
Fairtrade Australia New Zealand has partnered with VGA since 2013, and through it's Producer Development Fund, invested in a tools library offering farmers use of wheelbarrows, brush cutters, ladders and other tools necessary to maintain their vanilla gardens, and a model curing facility to add value and improve the quality of VGA’s vanilla. Both the model curing facility and tools library are initiatives designed by VGA to improve their growing business, and are owned and managed by the farmer association.
“We are very proud of VGA’s commitment to its business and its organisation,” says Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade ANZ. “VGA is a wonderful example of what farmer associations can do- by working together to achieve their common goals, they have set the path for their future success. We are very pleased to welcome VGA into the Fairtrade system.”
VGA aims to sell between 3 and 5 metric tonnes of Fairtrade and organic certified vanilla in 2015, which will bring up to USD350,000 in income to the farmers, and up to USD33,000 in Fairtrade Premium to the association to be used for business and community development activities.
VGA’s President Sione Lolohea reports, “With the support of Queen Fine Foods and Fairtrade, growers are returning to their vanilla plantations and gradually restoring them to full production. Our members are very thankful for the support we are receiving.”