Firmenich CEO Patrick Firmenich recently visited Haiti to build upon the company's long-term commitment to farmers in Haiti who cultivate high quality vetiver.
In particular, the company said Firmenich visited the region of Les Cayes in the South of Haiti to further validate the company's commitment to support local farming communities there, building on the launch of its program three years ago. Each year, the ingredients supplier purchases and transforms more than 1000 natural products from 170 botanical families from suppliers in more than 50 countries.
“Many of our ingredients come from small holder farmers. Ultimately, our products connect consumers with communities around the world. We are committed to sourcing and making these connections in a sustainable way,” said Firmenich.
In Haiti, more than 30,000 small-scale farmers cultivate vetiver in their hillside fields. Selling the much sought-after roots, which are used to make perfume, provides them with an important source of income. Firmenich, believed to be the most significant purchaser of Haitian vetiver, has been buying the essential oil from Haiti for several decades. In 2010, Firmenich made a commitment under the Clinton Global Initiative platform to work with vetiver farmers in Haiti to ensure the sustainable production of vetiver oil. In 2012, at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Firmenich announced the formation of an official partnership with the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC) in further support of vetiver farmers in Haiti.
Partnership goals of the Firmenich project include: improving agricultural methods and training, re-creating dynamic ecosystems around the concerned farming communities, providing better access to education, water, hygiene and nutrition; and offering opportunities to local communities through job creation and supplementary income for both women and men by diversifying crops and supporting entrepreneurial business ventures.
Firmenich, together with Haitian partner Agri-Supply, have planted lime, bitter orange and ylang-ylang seedlings to provide farmers with diversified crops. Firmenich selected the rural agricultural village of Débouchette in the Les Cayes region to pilot its sustainability work. Débouchette is the largest area in Haiti producing high quality vetiver.
The population is estimated at about 6,300 people who are mostly farmers. Débouchette has been certified by ECOCERT, a sustainable development organization that ensures products, systems and services adhere to environmentally friendly standards for agriculture. Firmenich conducted a baseline study in 2011 to assess the needs of the rural communities. The top need identified by the local population was access to education for their children. As part of its overall sustainability program in Haiti, completed the construction of a new primary school in Débouchette.
In addition, Firmenich participated in an agricultural mission with former President Bill Clinton in early March to highlight its long-term commitment to the agricultural sector in Haiti for vetiver and other essential oils. Haiti has declared 2013 the “year of agriculture” and has identified the revitalization of the agricultural sector as a critical component of the country’s long-term strategy for recovery and economic development given the strong potential for job creation, improved livelihoods, environmental recovery and food security.