As a company, one of the Five Principles by which Mars Chocolate operates is Mutuality – the belief that a mutual benefit is a shared benefit; a shared benefit will endure. Within our cocoa sustainability efforts, we have also operated under the guiding principle of putting farmers first. In the past few years, it has become clear through our work in the Vision for Change project and beyond that the entire sector will benefit by putting more of an emphasis on the needs of women cocoa farmers.
To that end, in 2013, we agreed to a gender empowerment strategy to help improve the conditions of and quality of life for women cocoa farmers. As we noted in the gender assessment we commissioned, it is estimated that women provide 45 percent of the labor on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire, but due to cultural and economic factors, they are often not viewed or referred to as “farmers.” In large part, due to inequitable civil liberties and cultural norms in the country, women are being held back from fully participating in the cocoa sector.
We have made progress since we have begun to implement our gender empowerment strategy – we have promoted leadership and engagement in our Vision for Change program, and plan to increase engagement by women in our cocoa committees; we are supporting 20 women’s groups in cocoa communities, with an average of 30 members each, to develop income-generating activities to empower women and will continue to develop even more civil society organizations of these types; and we are developing women entrepreneurs by supporting two Cocoa Village Center (CVC) operators, with more to come – but we know that there is more work to be done.
Attached you will find our strengthened plan to help ensure the sustainability of cocoa by empowering women cocoa farmers. The plan includes details on our current efforts as well as targets we aim to meet moving forward.