The effort to ensure that cocoa farmers can be more productive through training – to make sure they can learn about sophisticated farming practices and then utilize them on their own farms – is essential to Mars Chocolate’s sustainability efforts. “Technology transfer” is a simple concept, but in practice, takes a lot of creative thinking and leadership from those in the industry who have embraced the idea of increased farmer productivity.
That’s why we’re proud to announce that ECOM Agroindustrial Corporation, a global commodity trading and processing company specializing in coffee, cotton, and cocoa and one of our supply chain partners, has built a Cocoa Development Center (CDC) in Cote d’Ivoire that follows the model of the CDCs we have established there. By the end of this year, ECOM will have at least two CDCs established in Ivory Coast to supplement the centers that Mars Chocolate is building. These CDCs will be integrated into ECOM’s extensive agribusiness training program which currently reaches more than 10,000 cocoa farmers in 20 cooperatives.
It makes a lot of sense that ECOM is taking a similar path when it comes to training farmers on important agricultural practices like using fertilizer, pruning trees, and grafting stronger cocoa trees. With them, we have a shared vision of long-term commitment to investing in the future of the cocoa industry and common goals for enhancing productivity among growers. We both know that the future of cocoa – and the chocolate industry as a whole – is threatened by a lack of investment in the crop and in the farmers who are so essential to growing it. The guiding principle of putting farmers first by increasing their knowledge and productivity is followed by both companies.
As a supply chain partner, ECOM has shown a steadfast commitment to this shared vision to increase farmers’ productivity and their quality of life. We began discussing with them the importance of sustainability shortly after we made our announcement in 2009 that Mars Chocolate had committed to purchasing 100% of our cocoa from certified sustainable source by 2020. Throughout 2010, ECOM identified farmers from the cooperatives they work with and then sent them, along with individuals from ECOM, to visit Mars Chocolate’s CDC in Indonesia for a first-hand look at the practices there. In 2011, even in the midst of social and political challenges within the country, the company worked with local growers to identify a plot of land appropriate for the demonstration farm and began operating at the end of last year.
The current government of Cote d’Ivoire is working hard, through its extension services, to provide the kind of resources and training cocoa growers need for a more sustainable, prosperous future. But it is clear that companies like Mars Chocolate and ECOM will also need to continue to make a long-term investment of this nature. We are pleased that ECOM has recognized the importance of the CDC/VCC model and is joining us in putting farmers first.