Empowering Farmers through SMS

“Even the power of the most basic mobile technology, such as sending an SMS, can be used to provide data to farmers that they previously would not have had access to.”
NEI, with the help of our extension team, uses the system of SMS messaging via simple cellphones (not necessarily smart phone) to provide advice, anecdotes and times to harvest. This system is used not only as a system of information, but also as a form of motivation for small-scale farmers who, with the help of NEI’s systemization, acquire a sustainable income as a result of their healthy crops. The premium extracts, cocoa powder, and vanilla beans that we use from their raw products are directly related to the labour that they daily invest their time for. Which is why giving them a sense of insurance, access to what is happening in the market and agricultural tips are vital to this process.
The “how-to”  knowledge of the 5 “Ws” are critical to in this more modern agricultural world – who, what, where, when and why what is being done is being done. The Swahili messages, composed by our co-founder, Silas Noah, are sent weekly directly from our office in Moshi, Kilimanjaro through a mass texting system called Bongo SMS, to 900 farmers. These messages indicate harvesting times, agricultural tips and advice on vanilla crops. The messages will state, for example, (1) being sure to use dry leaves at the foot of the roots to keep the moisture from drying in the sun, or (2) while harvesting, picking only the vanilla pods with yellow tips, as they are the ones ready to be sent for production.
What better way, in a rapidly changing world, to expand this knowledge than through the power of these mobile devices! In the time it takes for a text message to send, which is equivalent to the snap of a finger, these farmers can be reassured that their work is ideal for what is needed for production of these premium products. From crop to bottle! 


Hands on Hedgehog

Three Natural & Healthy Uses for the Vanilla Bean and Vanilla Extract

1. Bye Bye Bug Bites! :

Combine 2 ounces of vanilla extract and 2 ounces water into a small spray bottle; spritz onto your exposed skin. Use this combo as a natural, delicious smelling bug repellant that mosquitos cannot stand but that we can enjoy!

2. Vanilla Sugar:

Add a couple of vanilla beans to your everyday jar of granulated sugar! Seal tightly and, in a couple of days, enjoy a hint of fresh vanilla flavour and scent wherever sugar is used (simple excitement for coffee or tea!).

3. Natural Reviving Facial Scrub:

Use the vanilla bean’s natural antioxidants by combining a few simple ingredients to rejuvenate skin:

– Squeeze juice of 1 lemon into a bowl; discard seeds.
– Slice open 5 vanilla beans lengthwise, and scrape out seeds with a spoon.
– Add vanilla seeds, 3 tablespoons brown sugar; mix ingredients well.
– Apply scrub to your face (avoiding your eyes), and massage in for a few minutes; rinse with warm water, then splash with cold water.

Stay posted for oh so many more natural recipes!

From Crop to Bottle

Natural Extract Industries Ltd. (NEI) initially started working with 1,000 smallholder farmers and women’s groups in 2011, by training them how to intercrop vanilla with what they were already growing on their land – banana trees, coffee plants, sugar cane, Fazoli beans and nyanya chungu, amongst a variety of other luscious plants, trees and flowers of the Kilimanjaro region. In past decades, farmers cultivated what was familiar to them (coffee, maize, beans), without the knowledge that the volcanic soil (derived from the highest African peak) of this fertile region is, environmentally, the perfect turf to grow vanilla. At first, the question of how to use it was a matter of cultural diversity, because, generally speaking, Tanzanians do not commonly consume vanilla in their traditional culinary practices. To the point, however, in the global market, vanilla is in very high demand as the second most expensive spice following Saffron.

NEI currently works with over 1200 smallholder farmers, from the regions of Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Mbeya, Kilombero and Morogoro, who are the backbone of this entire social enterprise. This number of farmers is only expected to grow with time, as demand for the products continues to flourish. Of these thousands of farmers, NEI appoints 35 women and men country-wide, who are the most experienced in the crop that they are growing, to be “Farmer Champions”. These individuals then become the leverage point for NEI’s interactions with all farmers as it is their responsibility to manage, train and coordinate approximately thirty to sixty other farmers in their village.  

All in all, NEI is a social enterprise pioneering extraction of natural flavours in this country, all while actualizing a bridge between Tanzanian farmers and the global market.