Real Vanilla

Doing our bit for the environment – LittlePod’s pioneering orchard in Indonesia!

06th Jun 2023

Thanks to Made and the farming communities in Bali, our innovative orchard is going from strength to strength. Nine years since he planted the first saplings, we asked LittlePod’s vanilla farmer for an update.

Did you know..?

Research has shown that where vanilla is planted, biodiversity is increased.

This week, we marked World Environment Day. In doing so, we took the opportunity to get an update on affairs in Indonesia, where the LittlePod orchard continues to flourish as our farmers do their bit to aid and improve biodiversity in and around Bali.

It is here that, in 2014, we provided 1,500 saplings as part of a collaborative project – led by Dr Made Setiawan, LittlePod’s vanilla farmer – to create an economically-viable community orchard that, we hoped, would buck a troubling trend for damage and deforestation in the Equatorial regions.

Nine years on, our saplings have developed into 15,000 mature vanilla vines, crop yields have increased alongside biodiversity, and here in East Devon, all our expectations have been exceeded.

It is thanks to Made, pictured with Janet, LittlePod’s founder and Managing Director, who has successfully implemented a pioneering polyculture system that allows the precious vanilla crop to be cultivated sustainably within the existing rainforest, giving the farming communities a financial incentive to preserve and protect the fragile environment around them.

The polar opposite to the damaging monocrop methods and the slash-and-burn techniques that have become all too common in the agricultural industry, Made’s innovative approach has proved to be such a triumph that our orchard has grown to 50 hectares – with more and more villages keen to be part of the project.

To be able to reap our first successful vanilla harvest – as we did in 2022 – whilst also playing our part in rainforest regeneration is a source of great pride, both for the LittlePod team in the UK and the farmers at the forefront of a project that, from tiny shoots, has grown into something rather special.

“Having researched the methods that are used by the indigenous rainforest communities in Mexico and Costa Rica, I suggested to LittlePod that we should replicate this in order to grow vanilla in Bali,” explained Made, who has spearheaded efforts at our orchard since day one. “Janet agreed and LittlePod began funding a community-based orchard.

“This system of polyculture relies on preserving the rainforest, using existing cacao, coffee and tropical fruit trees to support the vanilla vines, whilst mimicking the natural forest ecology. LittlePod’s orchard has pioneered the idea that vanilla cultivation can ensure the farmers have multi-faceted income streams, whilst preserving and restoring biodiversity in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia, contrary to the common agricultural practice of monoculture.

“The LittlePod orchard has shown that cultivating vanilla can generate a crucial income for farmers, whilst also restoring and preserving local biodiversity. Through LittlePod’s funding and support, vanilla can be a viable crop, playing a crucial role in land conservation and forest regeneration. LittlePod is one of the few companies to succeed in connecting real growers to the global market.”

The continuing success of the LittlePod orchard was an important part of our King’s Award for Enterprise application and we are grateful to Made and his farmers in Indonesia for their contribution to our Campaign for Real Vanilla. More importantly, the work being done in Bali is not just improving local biodiversity, but also protecting the rainforest environment, the lungs of the Earth, to the benefit of us all.

It is this we celebrate, and not just on named days and special occasions. It is the vanilla farmers across the Equatorial Belt, both at our orchard in Indonesia and elsewhere, who deserve our appreciation always.

To Made and his farmers in Bali; to those in Madagascar, whose pods are used to make our paste; to Juan and his team in Tanzania, and to those in Tahiti, Uganda and India, whose vanilla will feature in our future, we send our thanks for helping to save this precious orchid for the next generation, aiding the planet in the process…

To you all, for World Environment Day and beyond, vanilla hugs.