Every year, Mars offers to several volunteer associates the possibility to take part in the Mars Ambassador Program. This consists of assignments in various areas worldwide that focus on societal and environmental challenges that are linked to Mars business.
As part of this program, I had the opportunity to travel in September 2013 to Côte d’Ivoire, to work on an important aspect of Vision 4 Change (V4C): the digitalization of the field data collection for planting materials and community micro-projects. Indeed, while V4C is growing month after month with more and more CDC settled and infrastructure projects started, it has become crucial for Mars and its partners to have a clear and up-to-date vision of what’s going on the field.
The first week of my assignment, I’ve worked in Abidjan’s ICRAF office to detail the current state of the data collection process. It appeared that most of the information was reported on paper by technicians, transcribed into an electronic version, and sent to the ICRAF data manager, who then centralized and aggregated the data. This was a long, tiresome process and sometimes not reliable, as several gaps have been identified.
During the second week, I’ve was lucky to be involved in the Mars annual cocoa meeting with more than 30 associates, coming from commercial and sustainability divisions. We travelled by bus to San Pedro, which appeared to be an exciting experience. We took 7 hours to drive the 330km distance from Abidjan, crossing the palm trees, rubber trees and cocoa fields, all while zigzagging between large potholes.
Between a journey to a rural village and a visit of the San Pedro’s Cargill plant, I also took the time in San Pedro to start the development of a new data solution. For that purpose, Mars has partnered with two companies, AKVO and SourceMap, to provide a framework for data collection and presentation. Together with the ICRAF data manager, Dieudonné, we created the surveys on AKVO Flow, a flexible Android application. We also designed the process to integrate the data on SourceMap, a website that will contain the V4C dashboard, providing an ergonomic and pleasant way to visualize the information.
I spent the two last weeks in Soubré, a city that immersed me in a typical African experience. With rudimentary huts, a makeshift economy, and small restaurants where we eat for less than one dollar, it was a real change from my daily life in France. We organized a visit to a children’s orphanage, where I distributed teddy bears, clothes and toys kindly donated by my French colleagues. The happiness and the smile of the kids have been something I will never forget.
Apart this, my stay in Soubré area was dedicated to users training and application testing. 30 Samsung tablets were given to ICRAF technicians and ANADER staff. Two rounds of 2-day training were organized. The first day consisted of a general presentation of the system and the tablets, the second day being dedicated to a practical field testing. Everyone really enjoyed this new capability and I left Côte d’Ivoire with the satisfying feeling that I have contributed to a step change in the way the data will be available for Mars and ICRAF communities.