Food garden in Gadaisu village, Papua New Guinea. dense green foliage with small wooden fence in the middle.

The Papuan gardeners using their onions

Fences keep the pigs out of the vegetable gardens in Gadaisu.

Fresh vanilla, long thin green pods, hang from a vine.

Onion and vanilla are two flavours you’d never want to find together. But in Papua New Guinea they are natural bedfellows.

Vanilla plants grow like vines and are best when they’re supported by “host” trees. These trees serve a double purpose as their branches and leaves provide dappled shade from the harsh tropical sun, making perfect growing conditions for other crops, like onions.

This intercropping is a great way to use land that isn’t forested. Near to Gadaisu village there are areas of grassland and the community have decided to use Cool Earth funds to start planting vanilla and onion crops in this way.

It’s a good time to do it. The government is supporting onion growing and a shortage of vanilla means it’s a potentially high-value crop. The tree saplings have already been planted and the vanilla vines can be planted in the summer.

So whilst onion and vanilla ice cream is unlikely to be hitting the shelves any time soon, we’re hoping this combination will mean higher incomes (and more veg) for families in our Milne Bay partnership.