Competing to find the best vanilla grower on the island of Vava’u

Fairtrade Vanilla Farm in Tonga

Last month the Vanilla Growers Association of Vava’u (VGA) in Tonga rolled out their first Fairtrade Premium project which aimed to reward members’ efforts and encourage excellence in the production of vanilla. With the backing of their General Assembly and the support of the Vava’u vanilla industry, a competition was held using VGA’s Premium to recognise vanilla growers who demonstrated their mastery of best practices of vanilla production.

VGA has a current membership of 168 vanilla farmers located in 13 villages across the islands of Vava’u. Within each village, the three best farms were awarded a prize for their efforts. The criteria for judging included production practices such the preparation of their vanilla gardens, pruning, drainage systems, mulching, and the successful growth of new vanilla vines.

The competition was judged by Lolohea, VGA’s president who has had a long-time involvement in the vanilla industry in Tonga, and an extension officer from Tonga’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries. With the success of the competition and awards ceremony, plans are in place to host another event in June 2017, coinciding with VGA’s next vanilla season.

The Fairtrade journey for the Vanilla Growers Association of Vava’u (VGA)

Since 2013, VGA have worked tirelessly with support from their buyer, Fairtrade certified Queen Fine Foods, and Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand to assist farmers with the re-establishment of vanilla gardens on the island of Vava’u. Since the formation of VGA, vanilla farmers have re-established their land for vanilla growth, and gained practical skills in hand pollination and vanilla curing, the process through which vanilla’s characteristic flavour is developed.

After gaining Fairtrade certification in 2015, VGA made their first Fairtrade sale and received their first Fairtrade Premium in 2016.

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