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Cocoa for Generations

Sustainable Cocoa Tomorrow

Today, most cocoa is grown on small family farms with little access to electricity, clean water, reliable roads, or quality schools. These farmers also face the negative effects of climate change and persistent market failures. Despite past industry efforts to improve farmer livelihoods, the unfortunate reality is smallholder farmer poverty has not been eradicated. 

Cracking the code on transitioning smallholder farmers to a truly sustainable approach to cocoa farming is crucial.

It matters to the future success of our business and the success of cocoa farming families. And it’s critical for us to live up to the principles of responsibility and mutuality we set for ourselves at Mars. 

Cocoa farmer outside in the sun with a large organized pile of cacao beans
Mile Désirée, CAVA Cooperative (Credit: Abbas Makke)

We see great opportunity for a real change and have embarked on a holistic, development journey to achieve and sustain a living income for cocoa growing communities.  

With the launch of two groundbreaking, farmer-first programs we aim to support 14,000 smallholder farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia on a path to a sustainable living income by 2030.  

The programs have been designed in consultation with cocoa farmers and a network of leading organizations — including Fairtrade, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Institute for Development Impact (I4DI), and ECOOKIM, a Fairtrade Cooperatives Union that Mars has sourced from for several years — and build on insights from the Farmer Income Lab’s research and lessons learned from Mars’ recent efforts to improve livelihoods for farmers of mint and other raw materials 

We believe these pilots could be the industry’s most comprehensive effort to-date designed to address persistent barriers to cocoa farmers’ ability to achieve a living income. 

“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.”  

Our focus is on testing and learning on how to address challenges created by market failures and climate change by bundling interventions around credit and financial inclusion, agroforestry and income diversification, helping to create the conditions in which families with small cocoa farms can lift themselves out of poverty.  

LEAP (Livelihood Ecosystem Advancement Program) – Côte d’Ivoire  

Mars, Fairtrade and ECOOKIM are embarking on a holistic development journey to achieve and maintain a living income for cocoa growing communities. Drawing on more than 10 years of collaboration between the project partners, the LEAP program intends to address past market failures and permanently improve outcomes for farmers. This unique initiative integrates measures that promote systemic change. The goal is to establish the fastest, most efficient, most viable route to a living income for all cocoa farmers. 

ACTIVE (Advancing Cocoa Agroforestry Towards Income, Value & Environmental Sustainability) – Indonesia 

This alliance of collaborating partners aims to promote cocoa agroforestry practices that address both climate change mitigation and adaptation, while improving smallholder farmer livelihoods. I4DI, Mars, and USAID co-designed ACTIVE with the aim of providing farmers with access to appropriate technologies, market infrastructure and improved financing. ACTIVE builds on evidence gathered by Mars and I4DI over a six-year period and is expected to equip farmers and their families with alternative business models and take promising practices to scale for improved climate resilience and household incomes.  

The findings from these new programs will be used to create a blueprint of best performing interventions that Mars can scale across the cocoa supply chain and share with the cocoa sector to accelerate the path towards sustainable living income for cocoa farmers. 

Read more on the two groundbreaking, farmer-first programs here

Support families with farm development plans that improve productivity to over 1 metric ton of cocoa per hectare

Improve productivity

Our goal: Support families with farm development plans that improve productivity to over 1 metric ton of cocoa per hectare.

Supporting Enterprise with Farm Development Plans

Improved productivity will help farmers grow more cocoa on less land to help preserve forests and increase farmer income. A long-term farm development and restoration approach was developed in partnership with our cocoa and science research team, global experts like World Agroforestry Institute (ICRAF), cocoa producing countries, field agents, suppliers and farmers. This approach is tailored to each farm and family and provides the benefits of applied science with continuing coaching, quality cocoa trees, an investment schedule and other farm inputs to raise yield.

Creating Farmer Advice Networks

Access to better agricultural inputs and advice will help cocoa growers improve and maintain the health of their farms. Mars, together with our partners, has supported cocoa famers in Indonesia since 2012 through our Cocoa Development Center (CDC) and Mars Cocoa Academy in Luwu Raya, South Sulawesi, where cocoa farmers can study modern farming techniques and become Cocoa Doctors, helping farmers to dramatically increase their cocoa production.   

These specialists, who run their own cocoa businesses, provide advice and coaching to fellow farmers, reaching approximately 50,000 local farmers with good agricultural practices training to date. We’ll continue to learn how this network can best support farmers. 

Meet some of the people directly involved and learn about the impact on their lives and their livelihoods.

Improving Scientific Understanding

Good science is needed to ensure healthier, more resilient and more productive cocoa plants. We continue to work extensively with universities globally, ICRAF in West Africa, the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, and conduct research at our own centers in Indonesia, Brazil and the United States. In Ecuador, our research farm, Mars La Chola, is putting our plant science learnings into practice at scale, helping us test which insights can best benefit farmers.  

Improve household income with diversified farming, agroforestry and other alternatives beyond farming

Diversify income

Our goal: Improve household income with diversified farming, agroforestry and other alternatives beyond farming.

Building diversity and resilience in farming is important. We continue to build understanding on how best to implement diversified farming in Indonesia and West Africa through our own projects and in partnership with ICRAF. We will work with farmers to roll out learnings shown to meaningfully increase income from livestock and other cash, timber and food crops.

DOVE® Chocolate Empowers Women in Cote d’Ivoire

We’ve collaborated with CARE to financially support women in the cocoa communities, giving them the means to support themselves and their families.

Empower women through financial literacy, household savings and loans, and women’s income generating activities.

Empower women and communities

Our goal by 2025: Expand CARE International’s Village Savings and Loans Associations to economically and socially empower women through financial literacy, household savings and loans, and women’s income generating activities.

The well-being of women in cocoa communities is a critical link to family food security and nutrition, education, and health and drives the long-term prospects for a future of educated cocoa farmers. Together with CARE International, we have developed a unique Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) model, Women for Change, that includes a number of essential building blocks beyond the foundational savings and loans activity. The Mars DOVE® brand first implemented VSLAs in collaboration with CARE and with support from the Jacob’s Foundation in Côte d’Ivoire. The program grew in 2018 as part of Mars’ Cocoa for Generations strategy aimed at creating a quicker pathway for cocoa farmers, their families and their communities to thrive. Research conducted in VSLA communities supported by Mars shows that they increase women’s social and economic empowerment and more than double women’s average savings when they are supported over a three-year period.

  • In 2020, encouraged by the Women for Change model and its proven results, we committed an additional $10M to further expand this unique model with CARE to reach more than 60,000 members by 2025. In September 2022, we exceeded our target reaching more then 77.000 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) members - 75% of which are women - across Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and a total of  more than US $7.4M is savings collectively mobilized.  

Women and girls’ empowerment is a dynamic and transformative process of change, which requires addressing gender inequalities and disempowerment across multiple dimensions; this also presents a variety of entry points for the transformation needed to reshape the future of cocoa. To address these challenges, we have partnered with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) to conduct qualitative research to understand and explain behaviors, experiences, and attitudes in relation to the inequality and disempowerment that women face in their daily lives in cocoa growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia. It was concluded that the longer-term, often overlooked and neglected “mainstreaming” work of changing mindsets and social norms is essential if we want to make meaningful progress in lowering barriers to equality, reducing poverty and unlocking the full potential of women and girls. Mars is taking action by embedding a gender transformative lens into its cocoa policies, strategies, partnerships and programs linked to human rights, the environment and farmer income.  

The detailed findings have been described in the following two reports:  

As part of our Cocoa for Generations strategy, Mars partners with CARE on unlocking opportunities for women by implementing successful village savings and loan models. In this short film, we meet Kouassi, Ashkey, Rita, Amankoa, and Samuel who talk about how the VSLA is helping them and their families.



Cocoa for Generations 2021 report

Mars has been buying cocoa to make our chocolate brands for over a century, putting this integral ingredient at the heart of our company’s heritage. For four decades we have partnered with others to work towards our goal of more sustainable cocoa production. We know that a truly sustainable cocoa sector is essential if we are to continue to provide chocolate for future generations of chocolate lovers. Our ambition is to create an environmentally sustainable supply chain where everyone, especially cocoa farmers, has the opportunity to thrive and human rights are respected.

We are committed to taking action to drive transformational change that makes a lasting impact across the entire cocoa supply chain, unlocking opportunities for farmers, their families and their communities. We believe that through Cocoa for Generations and our wider environmental stewardship, we have a chance to do that, and are pleased to share our progress.

2021 Cocoa for Generations Report

Track our progress toward more sustainable cocoa production. Download our PDF report.

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