A dynamic vanilla farmer named Lucia shows us how working with a cooperative has helped her and her family overcome tough times and realize their dreams.
Sustainable Vanilla – Improves Incomes and Health in Madagascar How USAID and McCormick partner to strengthen the resilience of farmers. Maroantsetra, Madagascar. My name is Lucia. I’m a vanilla farmer, and I love my kids. This is Orickia. She’s very studious. Daniel is a talented artist. And my youngest, Fleurna, she loves to play. My dream is that one day, one of them becomes a doctor who will take care of me when I’m old. A serious illness used to be my nightmare. Our income as vanilla farmer has not always provided us with safety net for health care. In the past, exporters would pay middlemen by money for our vanilla. We received only a very small portion from the middlemen. We had tom accept the low prices they imposed on us. We were overindebted. We had no choice. Our savings would not last the whole year. But thankfully, that’s all in the past. Our situation has greatly improved since I joined the “Mirary Soa” (Best Wishes) vanilla farmers’ cooperative. A cooperative unites people into a jointly owned and controlled enterprise, helping members meet their needs and aspirations. Through the cooperative, we’ve negotiated a better selling price directly with the exporters. We also receive training on financial management. We now have new ways to access funding, like interest-free loans, which are especially helpful during the lean season, or from a village savings and loan association we created. All members contribute funding, and all members can borrow. This way, we’re making each other stronger. Best Wishes! But for me, the most important part is our mutual health insurance plan. I only pay Ar. 30,000 ($8.20) per year. And I know that if I have a health emergency, I will be covered. Thanks to USAID support, over 550 vanilla famers now have security of reliable health insurance. It’s like a dream! Last year, I had a serious stomach problem. The treatment cost almost Ar. 400,000 ($105). Fortunately, the cooperative health insurance paid 70% of the cost. I recovered quickly and with peace of mind. I don’t need to borrow money from people anymore. I have invested the money we saved and the higher income I get from my vanilla. We built a house in town where the kids can go to better schools. My only question now is… Which of them will become a doctor?