Mars Incorporated has announced a new effort to improve the livelihoods of 14,000 smallholder cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia by the next eight years.
According to the chocolate maker of more than 100 years, two ground-breaking, farmer-first programs will place the beneficiaries ‘on a path to a sustainable living income.’
A press release copied to Cocoa Post noted, “These programs were designed in consultation with cocoa farmers and development partners and build on lessons learned from Mars’ recent efforts to improve livelihoods for farmers of mint and other raw materials.”
It said the findings from these new programs will be used to create a blueprint of interventions that Mars can scale across the cocoa supply chain.
“Ten years ago, Mars decoded the cocoa plant genome for the first time. Today we are aiming to crack the code on a sustainable living income for cocoa farmers to enable them and their families to thrive for generations,” said Barry Parkin, Mars Chief Sustainability and Procurement Officer.
“Efforts to improve farmer livelihoods based on stopgap measures or single issues in isolation will not create the change that is required. Farmers may understand what needs to be done to improve their crops and their livelihoods but might not have the market support to make those changes. In this new effort, we are committing to help remove the obstacles in their path, particularly lack of access to finance and the need to adapt to climate change,” he added.
Mars is partnering with Fairtrade, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Institute for Development Impact (I4DI), and ECOOKIM, a Fairtrade Cooperatives Union to implement its latest sustainability intervention.
Most cocoa today is grown on small family farms with little access to electricity, clean water, reliable roads, or quality schools.
Mars stated that compounding these challenges are the negative effects of climate change and persistent market failures, such as disconnection from formal financial systems, underdeveloped cooperative management practices, unsustainable prices, and lack of alternative income sources to offset market volatility.
It observed the obstacles can leave cocoa farmers in poverty, unable to invest in or grow their businesses due to factors beyond their control.
Despite past industry efforts to improve farmer livelihoods, the unfortunate reality is that smallholder farmer poverty has not been eradicated.
The Farmer Income Lab (FIL), a “think-do” tank founded by Mars, reviewed more than 1,500 studies detailing common interventions to increase farmer income and found only three of them raised incomes by more than 50 percent and could be sustained over time.
“Mars will apply these findings in a new test-and-learn approach that combines best-practice interventions to unlock the entrepreneurship of farmers, diversify income streams, and improve productivity to enhance farm resilience and accelerate incomes, with the aim of scaling successful measures more widely,” it assured.
The company explains its FIL research shows there is benefit in going beyond selective, short-term interventions which are not fully effective at achieving sustainable change, thus Mars aims to drive long-lasting systemic impact.
Mars is also working with Fairtrade and others to co-create programs for farmers tailored to varying sizes of smallholdings in different environments, contexts, and markets to meet farmers’ specific challenges with customized combinations of interventions.
Mars intends to forge new approaches and share its findings—including what works, and what doesn’t—to help the wider industry collectively leapfrog challenges, achieve solutions that drive systemic change, and define a sustainable path toward a living income.
“Cocoa farmers and their families are struggling to make ends meet due to the changing climate, poor soil quality and long-term low prices,” said Michael Gidney, Fairtrade Foundation CEO.
“At Fairtrade, we believe all farmers should get the incomes their hard work deserves, and we know new, farmer-centered approaches are needed to transform global supply chains.
“As a result, we’re excited to be working with Mars to launch a major new program to support West African farmers improve their livelihoods and move towards a living income, regardless of their starting position,” added Gidney.
“As the prime implementing partner of ACTIVE, the Institute for Development Impact (I4DI) is delighted to work with Mars to bring lessons learned from cocoa supply chains in Ghana and Indonesia into this project,” said Azra Kacapor Nurkic, I4DI CEO.
Mars’ $1 billion Cocoa for Generations strategy
In 2018, Mars announced a $1 billion investment in its Cocoa for Generations strategy, to create a modern, inclusive, and sustainable cocoa supply chain, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, human rights are respected, and the environment is protected for generations to come.
These new, innovative programs build on Mars’ existing efforts and work towards its goal of sourcing 100 percent of its cocoa through its Responsible Cocoa program by 2025.
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