ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on behalf of the American people, has launched a new $5.8 million, five-year, public-private partnership to strengthen Madagascar’s chocolate and spices industry, improve farmer livelihoods, and conserve biodiversity.
The partnership, called “TSIRO Alliance,” is committed to supporting more than 2,000 farmers in 30 communities and planting more than 1.5 million trees over the next five years to support agroforestry systems and biodiversity. The TSIRO Alliance represents a HEARTH Global Development Alliance, an initiative where USAID and the private sector work together to identify and solve development challenges through mutually beneficial partnerships.
“USAID recognizes that the private sector can be a powerful force in driving economic growth, creating jobs, and advancing opportunities that improve the well-being of people and communities,” USAID Madagascar Mission Director John Dunlop said.
The TSIRO Alliance unites local and international private companies and non-profit organizations working in the fine chocolate and spices industry. These partners include Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), Beyond Good, Guittard Chocolate, Akesson’s Organic, and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP). Centre ValBio and the Bristol Zoo will serve as technical partners.
“We all share the same goals of improving the economic situation of participating farmers, strengthening the entire process from cultivation through manufacturing to sales of Madagascar’s fine cacao and spice products, and supporting biodiversity in the unique ecosystems required to produce these crops,” CRS’s Jim Hazen said on behalf of the TSIRO Alliance.
Madagascar is home to a unique heirloom variety of cacao called criollo. This rare type of cacao is famous for its fruit flavor and has attracted the attention of many international fine chocolate companies. Criollo requires shade to grow, so the TSIRO Alliance will plant more than 1.5 million trees in the space between forest fragments in the Tsaratanana and Fandriana Vondorozo forest corridors. These areas will be used to produce cacao and spices in a mixed agroforestry system that addresses the TSIRO Alliance’s commitment to conserving biodiversity and the business ambitions of the fine chocolate industry while fulfilling.
“These agroforestry systems are a win-win,” Agathe Sector, USAID’s Sustainable Environment and Economic Development Office Director, said. “They conserve biodiversity by providing habitat for lemurs and other forest dwelling animal species, and they produce the conditions necessary for farmers to grow high quality cacao, which they can then sell to international buyers for a premium.”
Through this project, the U.S. government is showcasing its commitment to facilitating relationships between U.S. and Malagasy businesses. The partnership will also help bolster Madagascar’s underdeveloped cacao market while improving local economies and conserving biodiversity. Moreover, it will also provide farmers with financial literacy training to improve their capacity to negotiate with buyers, skills that will help farmers earn a fair price for their products.
Since 2013, the U.S. government has invested nearly $60 million in programs to strengthen natural resource governance, improve livelihoods and support biodiversity conservation. The U.S. government works side-by-side with the Government of Madagascar and the Malagasy people, like ‘mpirahalahy mianala’, to secure the nation’s natural resources and biodiversity and promote sustainable environmental practices that will help protect its environmental heritage and economic future.