As the world’s primary vanilla-producing country, the lives of thousands of impoverished and even landless households in Madagascar depend on this lucrative cash crop. FEG was commissioned by Save the Children to help it understand how the vanilla industry impacts the household economy of those at the bottom of the production chain. The aim was also to provide a clear picture of who the poorest farmers were and how they could be supported by existing safety nets.

A small team of two HEA specialists conducted baseline field interviews in vanilla-producing villages of the lush and fertile Sava region. This particular HEA exercise differed from the usual form in that only representative households from the two poorest wealth groups were interviewed. This enabled the team to focus in-depth on what the poor are doing to survive, and the extent of their involvement in the vanilla production process. Following the fieldwork, FEG conducted a scenario analysis in order to simulate the effect a hazard (such as significantly reduced vanilla production) would have on the survival and livelihood options of poor households. This scenario analysis provided Save the Children with a basis upon which to plan livelihoods interventions in Sava region.