Creating a Cocoa Ecosystem Where Farmers Thrive – POLITICO
As a global food company, at Mars we take great pride in the quality of our products. Our commitment to quality means working hard to understand the needs of our consumers and ensuring that our products, including cocoa, are produced under sustainable and socially responsible conditions. For us, this means being a trusted partner for the benefit of families and individuals in cocoa-growing communities, investing in their success and well-being, and striving to have a positive impact on the environment in which we operate. let’s operate.
Unfortunately, “sustainable cocoa” is easier said than done. From planting the first seedlings to growing healthy plants, harvesting and selling the produce in the market, cocoa farming is riddled with structural obstacles, making it extremely difficult for farmers to earn an income. stable for themselves and their families.
Poverty is a complex and unjust phenomenon. To date, many efforts to lift smallholder farmers out of poverty in cocoa supply chains have failed. A cocoa export surcharge paid by companies in the chocolate industry – known as the Living Income Differential (LID) – is a start, and Mars is supporting the initiative to raise farmers’ prices led by Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
But while higher wholesale prices are part of the equation, they alone have proven insufficient to improve farmers’ incomes, demonstrating that prices alone are not enough to move farmers into a higher income situation. sustainable. It has helped fill short-term income gaps, but does not eliminate the underlying root causes of farmer poverty: factors such as low land productivity and small farm sizes, exclusion of women and girls financial decisions, or continued oversupply, which artificially deflates prices. Export surcharges such as the LID are laudable and deserve our support, but they do not break the logic of an inherently flawed system that does not put the needs of agricultural workers first.
From “live” to “thrive”
We believe it is time to take a radically different approach to farmer livelihoods by changing the way cocoa farmers generate income. We need a systemic overhaul that improves farming practices, incentivizes keeping children in school instead of in the fields, ensures farmers have access to resources, boosts sustainable methods of pest and disease control and tools to diversify their crops to be less impacted by cyclical income.
“Prospering” means putting farmers on a foundation for permanent, self-sustaining growth. This means unlocking their entrepreneurial potential—enabling them to be “agripreneurs,” who have the ability to grow, invest and diversify their business. “Agripreneurship” means preserving and living in harmony with natural and social capital, eliminating the forces that push farmers to deplete it, and being able to pass it on to the next generation.
Such systemic change will require a combination of measures, including land reform, women’s empowerment, crop diversification, supply chain management measures, or farmers’ access to micro-finance. This will take time and will only be possible if all stakeholders – governments, cocoa farmers, sustainability certification bodies and chocolate producers – work together towards the same goals.
It also requires the muscle of the EU, which, as the world’s largest importer of cocoa, has a unique capacity for dialogue and agenda setting. After investing 25 million euros in support for West Africa, the European Commission has signaled the importance of the sector’s transition.
Price regulation should be part of a package of measures. Through the EU Alliance for Sustainable Cocoa, the Commission has developed an excellent forum to engage all stakeholders in the search for new solutions. The Markets and Prices Task Force has the potential to become the natural cradle for new thinking in our sector. Any functioning market relies on the interaction of three variables – price, supply and demand – and improving the existing pricing framework cannot be successful without considering the other. The task force’s success will be determined by its ability to come up with solutions, which go beyond unilateral top-down regulations, which have been tried and tested – but ultimately failed.
To succeed in improving livelihoods and developing new living income guarantees, collaboration between all actors in the cocoa supply chain is essential. All have a role to play in catalysing and advancing smallholder-based agricultural transformation. At Mars, we urge the EU Sustainable Cocoa Alliance to use its incredible convening power to bring home governments and businesses to the table to help create a holistic and systemic solution to the means livelihood of farmers. We would like to see the EU play an ‘honest broker’ role so that together with governments we can build on the work of the market and prices task force and secure a more sustainable future for cocoa farmers and to their communities.