MADAGASCAR – Madagascar’s chocolate and spices industry is set to benefit from a newly launched US$5.8 million, five-year, public-private partnership spearheaded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The partnership, dubbed “TSIRO Alliance,” is aimed to improve farmer livelihoods, and conserve biodiversity by 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.

They all share one goal of 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.

Project to conserves bio-diversity

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,” she said.

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.

USAID boosts support to Zimbabwe through resilience-building

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, USAID, has issued a US$5.7 million contribution to the World Food Programme (WFP) to support people experiencing vulnerability to food insecurity across urban and rural areas.

Urban populations will benefit from the contribution through WFP’s Urban Resilience Building Programme which aims to reach up to 180,000 households across 19 urban domains.

Innovative projects like hydroponics will be established in and around cities- which encourages food production through environmentally sustainable techniques.

This will empower communities with the tools required to grow and sell food to generate income as many urban livelihoods have been devastated by COVID-19.

Complementary skills building will also be provided to communities such as financial literacy, vocational and digital skills, marketing and micro business management training.

Additionally, 14,000 rural households in eight districts will receive support through WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets Programme.

The rural resilience activities will support community-based asset building, promote village savings and lending groups, and provide training on improving crop storage conditions to reduce harvest loss.

In exchange for participation, food assistance will be provided to supplement shortfalls during the upcoming lean season.

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