Soaring global prices of vanilla should have been good news to Madagascan farmers, where 80 percent of the world’s vanilla is grown. Instead it’s brought crime, violence, and even death.
AMBAVALA, Madagascar (Reuters) – Soaring global prices of vanilla should have been good news for Jao Nasaina, a 58-year-old farmer of the luxury spice on the northeast tip of Madagascar.
Instead, it has brought poverty, stress and sleepless nights patrolling his little patch of jungle with a spear and home-made pistol to ward off the thieves who sneak in to hack off the prized pods under cover of darkness.
Over the last year, police and vigilante groups guarding the northern Malagasy forests of Sava – the world’s vanilla capital due to its perfect climate – have caught more than a thousand vanilla rustlers, most of whom are now behind bars, according to local police chief Sirnot Besoa.
Sometimes, however, villagers whose livelihoods depend almost exclusively on the spice used to flavor everything from ice cream to coffee have taken matters into their own hands, beating apprehended suspects to death.