April 5, 2010 – As a member of the Mars Cocoa Sustainability Team, work in West Africa has always represented both a business and a personal challenge in terms of making significant and meaningful progress towards sustainability. Since our decision to focus greater effort in the world’s largest cocoa producer, Côte d’Ivoire, each of us has been determined to work in collaboration with the leadership of the Ivorian cocoa sector, because meaningful change in the sector and its more than 700,000 cocoa farmers requires the support of the cocoa institutions that are already in place – especially the research structure CNRA and the extension program ANADER.
While we have been engaged in a number of industry efforts in West Africa involving the training of cocoa farmers – notably the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/World Cocoa Foundation Cocoa Livelihoods Program (CLP) – I think the signing of the MOU between Mars and the Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Agriculture sets the stage for a new and different type of collaboration. By establishing a task force in which senior members of the Ivorian Cocoa Sector will engage with Mars and other industry specialists, we hope to make the planned pilot effort an opportunity to clearly demonstrate directly to farmers specific technologies that will enhance farmer productivity and income well beyond what is achieved today.
The Ivorian cocoa farmer is the point of synergy between the Ivorian 2QC (Quality, Quantity, Growth) and the Mars’ V4C (Vision for Change) programs. I am more hopeful than ever that by working in partnership under this new agreement we can jointly find the keys to making cocoa farming a profession that will bring genuine and lasting benefits to the farmers, the families and the communities that have come to depend on this crop for their livelihoods.