Voice of Vanilla

Sambava, Madagascar | Film Feature


Maureen Maloney

1 Campaigns | Colorado, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $12,117 for development. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

150 supporters | followers

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Although many take vanilla for granted, this difficult and dangerous crop is a singular opportunity to escape poverty for farmers in Madagascar. Will the women responsible for vanilla cultivation be able to weather the storms that threaten their livelihoods?

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

We are an international team of filmmakers, journalists, scientists, and artists with decades of storytelling experience. Our goal is to uncover the forces preying upon vulnerable farmers, so that you can be certain the food you purchase supports a fair, healthy, and equitable planet.

The Story

Voice of Vanilla is a feature documentary about women vanilla farmers in Madagascar, the challenges they face with devastating poverty, all the while struggling at the bottom of the ladder in regards to resources. These women face exploitation from middlemen to corporations, harrowing climate change storm-surges,  unprecedented novel diseases and finally, theft. Unimaginable obstacles aside, vanilla offers a rare lifeline out of poverty. This film examines the factors that determine whether vanilla is a blessing or a curse, and what we can do globally to make sure that real Madagascar vanilla is available for future generations.


As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar, I witnessed firsthand how marginalized people were impacted every day by climate change realities. This was in stark contrast to the United State’s stance that climate change is something to worry about in the future, not today. I felt compelled to guide others with what I learned through these experiences in the hopes that we, globally, can take action before it’s too late. The story of vanilla farmers captured my attention because the women are not only dealing with climate change but a rash of other critical global issues. These types of systematic problems are ones which governments know about, but seem to be in no hurry to solve. For people in power, these are distant issues that require no immediate attention, especially since they are rarely in the news or at the forefront of peoples’ attention. However, for people in poor, rural areas like the vanilla farmers, these issues impact their ability to survive and limit any and all agency to create a better reality for themselves and future generations.


We are committed to giving this story, and these women, the attention they deserve. The farmers are facing insurmountable barriers to improving their lives; we have the power to help. It takes a community to create a film, and we would need you to join the team. How would you like to be involved? If you have limited time, but want to contribute to the film, we have some fun incentives for you. If you want to be more involved, please let us know!

Although production was paused due to covid, our team based in Madagascar is ready to go, with production resuming in June 2021. This crowdfunding campaign will provide the funds for the next stage production, capturing the opening of the vanilla market. The price of vanilla dropped drastically this year worldwide, yet the government of Madagascar is imposing prices higher than those on the world market, which could make it difficult for farmers to sell their crops. We will see firsthand how this volatility impacts the farmers.

Our goal with this film is impact. It will be part of an educational program to increase support for Fair Trade and ethically-sourced products. Combined with 360° virtual experiences, it will tour museums, botanical gardens, and educational institutions around the world. Estimated completion date for the film is Fall 2022.









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Crew salaries

Costs $7,250

Fair wages for the entire team in Madagascar.

Permits and fees

Costs $2,100

Permits and fees for filming, fiscal sponsor fees

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Plane tickets

Costs $900

Travel for the crew to Sambava, Madagascar.

Food & Lodging

Costs $750

Food and lodging during the trip.


Costs $1,000

Travel and security around Sambava region

About This Team

Producer, Maureen Lee Maloney, MS, MA, specializes in creating documentary content related to culture, science, and international issues. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar, and has lived and filmed throughout Africa, South America, and Asia.

Click to view Maureen's work.

Director/Co-Producer Gaelle Borgia is a Pulitzer prize-winning Malagasy journalist. She has worked as a journalist in Madagascar for 10 years, reporting for major media like France 24, BBC, and New York Times. She's had the opportunity to do several news reports on price variation, insecurity, lack of regulation in the vanilla sector, and is very interested in this topic as the capital of vanilla, Sambava, is her father's home town. 

Click to view Gaelle's work.

Associate Producer, Samson Kaed was born and raised in the vanilla region of Antalaha, Madagascar. Currently he studies Communication in the capital city of Antananarivo. He founded the English Association of the Region SAVA, and has a lot of experience educating others, as a librarian for CLUE, a cultural facilitator at Peace Corps Madagascar, and many other companies.

Click to view Samson's work.

Associate Producer, Sarah Osterhoudt is an environmental anthropologist who works with vanilla growers in Madagascar to study cultural dynamics of agriculture and trade in Madagascar. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and is currently an associate professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. Osterhoudt is the author of Vanilla Landscapes: Meaning, Memory, and the Cultivation of Place in Madagascar.  

Click to view Sarah's work

Advisor, Greg Campbell is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, nonfiction author, and journalist. His film, Hondros, premiered in 2017 at Tribeca Film Festival and won the Audience Award, Documentary First Place. His bestselling book, “Blood Diamonds”, inspired the six-time Oscar nominated movie of the same name starring Leonard DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.

Click to view Greg's work or watch Hondros on Netflix.

Advisor, Karen Whitehead, is the award-winning producer/director of IMITATING LIFE – THE AUDACITY OF SUZANNE HEINTZ (2020) and HER AIM IS TRUE (2013). She is an accomplished journalist and former television producer.

Click to view Karen's work



Current Team