Together We are Stone, Separate We are Sand

Part 5 of 7

When Nathaniel Delafield and his wife Sarah Osterhoudt began their Peace Corps assignment in Madagascar in 2005, the vanilla bean producers were suffering from a sudden and dramatic drop in the price of vanilla worldwide. The farmers were working very hard, but they had no income. They were struggling to maintain the most humble existence. This inspired the couple to work directly with farmers to develop a new trade model for international vanilla markets that would be fair financially and sustainable for the long run. 

“Our mission has always been to make sure that our farmers, curers and other partners at every point along the supply chain benefit from the production of vanilla. We wanted to create a model that would be more empowering and lucrative for producers,” recalls Delafield, co-founder of LAFAZA. “It’s been very transformative for everyone involved, but we don’t take credit for the idea. It was something we had the honor to be part of. The farmers had the original idea and did much of the original research. We helped them implement it and when we started, no model existed for this in the Madagascar vanilla industry. We really had to innovated a different approach, which was an exciting challenge.”

Today, LAFAZA’s work directly impacts more than 1,500 farmers and their families annually, a number that continues to grow every season, with exports to more than 15 countries. The company helps producers with training, family and community food security, crop security and other needs by listening to their recommendations. The company is helping farmers change their lives. 

For example, Delafield’s Peace Corps host family, initially lived in a modest house and had a motorcycle. They were working as hard as they could to increase their livelihood, but struggled to get ahead. Today, they have built a cement home with guest rooms and warehouse space in a premier location in the village. They have two 4X4 trucks, one their son uses as a taxi; their daughter is in college. LAFAZA is proud to have had a role in their journey.

“When we started, they were good local producers and our best advisors. Today, they work with us, and a lot of other companies, because they are savvy in a world trading sense. This is what we dreamed of 15 years ago, now it is a reality and emblematic of the model we created together. We too are thriving largely because of their support,” explains Delafield.

“My favorite Malagasy proverb is Mitambatra vato, misaraka fasika, which means together we are stone, separate we are sand. It is at the heart of what we are doing,” says Delafield. 

Click here to learn more about our White Pumpkin and Almond Murabba with cardamom & vanilla.

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