Mars Wrigley Confectionery launched its new cocoa sourcing strategy, Cocoa for Generations, in September. John Ament, Global VP Cocoa at Mars, shares his excitement at the opportunity to meet the many social and environmental challenges of the cocoa industry.
It’s not often you get a chance to improve the lives of millions of people.
With the launch of our ground-breaking Cocoa for Generations initiative, our cocoa team at Mars Wrigley Confectionery is creating a pathway for cocoa farmers, their families and their communities to thrive. I feel privileged and humbled to be leading that team.
Without cocoa there would be no chocolate. Cocoa plants are particularly fussy about their environment and grow only in a narrow band near the equator, preferably in the shade of forest trees. Cocoa is produced in Asia, central and south America and Africa, and most comes from the west African countries of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, where it is grown by smallholder farmers tending plots no bigger than a couple of football fields.
Mars has been making chocolate for over 100 years, and over time has made significant investments in research on Cocoa plant science and agronomy. In the past decades our plant scientists have been working to help improve the efficiency of farmers with a combination of healthier, more productive plants and modern farming methods. During this time, with IBM, we have mapped the cocoa genome and shared the information with all, to ensure that the application of good science can boost productivity and thereby the livelihoods of hard-working cocoa farmers.
While much progress has been made, the stark reality is that the cocoa supply chain is broken. Despite genuine and best-intentioned efforts by all those in the cocoa industry, the sector is characterized by human rights issues (hazardous child labor remains commonplace), plant disease, deforestation and farmers locked into poverty.
Our Cocoa for Generations initiative puts farmers and farming communities at the center of our efforts. Working with others in our industry, we are determined to lead the way in boosting farmer income, protecting children and preserving forests. That’s our immediate objective. In the longer-term, we have begun working to crack the code on what modern, sustainable smallholder cocoa farming looks like and how we can make it happen.
I fully realize the enormity of the challenge and we know from experience that there will be many difficulties ahead, and that we do not have all the answers. But we are determined to make progress, and have identified three things we have to achieve as fast as possible.
First, we must find ways to address the key issues impacting the farmers, their communities and environment today, putting their interests at the heart of what we do. This requires finding solutions to increase farmer income, protect children from hazardous labor and ensure they have access to quality education, and preserve forests for the long-term benefit of their communities and the planet.
We know this is a mammoth task but we have a plan on how to get there and we have set ourselves a goal of delivering on this ambition by 2025. At that point we want to be able to ensure that all the cocoa we buy has been produced responsibly.
Second, and starting now, we must demonstrate – at scale – a clear path to sustainable smallholder cocoa farming in the future, with thriving farmers and prosperous communities. We know from our experience that this is indeed possible, but it does take time. We found in Indonesia, for example, that it took farmers up to seven years to adopt new methods. Merely providing access to training is not enough and we have learned that one-to-one coaching is best. The results of such efforts can be hugely rewarding. Three quarters of farms connected to our Indonesia Cocoa Development Hubs have been renovated to improve long-term productivity.
Finally, while we at Mars can lead the way, we know that success will only come by working in partnership with governments, non-governmental organizations, certifiers and the entire cocoa sector. We must inspire others to come together, to collaborate, co-create and to ensure our joint efforts lead to Cocoa for Generations.
Originally posted on LinkedIn.