Vanilla and Conservation

“We bring people together over good food.

However, our customers, our producers and us have something else in common. Guayusa Runa and Amazanga are two Kichwa communities located in the Pastaza county of the Pastaza province.  In recent decades communities like these have relied on farming, running cattle, artisan crafts, petroleum jobs, or government projects to make an income.

These communities are from the Llanganates-Sangay Ecological Corridor an area considered as a priority for conservation efforts due to its strategic location, diversity of fauna and flora, variety of habitats and ecosystems.  It was designated recently a “Gift of the Earth” and sits above the largest watershed in the world, the Amazon.  The region is extremely biodiverse due to its proximity to the equator, high levels of precipitation, and geological and topographical variation.  The continent of Europe is 19,500 times larger than Mera county but has 2.2 times less species of trees. The 55 km2 Río Anzu headwaters contain 150% of the amphibian diversity of all of Canada, an area 180,000 times larger.  The corridor is home to five species of big cats, representing perhaps the greatest localized diversity of felines in the world.

This area is under significant threat as mining and oil exploitation are driving out indigenous residents.  Once roads are cut into the forest, homesteaders arrive and cut timber for cash and then pasture cattle.  With very fragile tropical soils, these pastures do not sustain beyond a few years.  Like always, and as it always will be, people are looking for a way to make a living.  Some people have settled for “easy” work with petroleum companies and meanwhile, the land and water therein have been contaminated, and the people who truly belong to this place have been disenfranchised from it.

These communities are seeking alternatives to the destructive and inefficient land-use practices often promoted in the Amazon.

The Amazonia Vanilla Company found small scale vanilla producers and realised they had no market and they lacked techniques to grow vanilla, even though vanilla is a native plant to the Amazon.   We teamed up with these producers and began peer trainings, and started investing in their plantations.  We all are excited about the quality of the amazonian vanilla. 

The production of vanilla is a much more efficient use of land than almost any other agricultural practice.  

One head of cattle needs approximately 2.5 acres of pasture in the Amazon and can provide a maximum annual income of $400.  The same income can come from 10 vanilla plants on a space of 30 square feet. 

Vanilla requires shade, so vanilla can be grown under the forest canopy.  The Amazonia Vanilla Company’s producers grow ecologically sustainable crop and adhere to forest preservation and replanting of trees.   

There are additional benefits.  Vanilla byproducts can be used to make various artisan crafts, as well as incorporated into volunteer and tourism projects.  Lastly, vanilla products are small and lightweight, meaning the environmental impact of distribution is very low.

At the Amazonian Vanilla Company, we overtly chose to work in the Amazon with indigenous producers.  We don’t source from massive greenhouse complexes along the coast.  Our model of business is to empower and benefit producers from these Amazonian communities and connect them to conscientious consumers all over the world. Yes, this region provides us with a true “gift of the earth”. Thanks in advance for choosing us!

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