Two years ago, at the CHOCOVISION conference, I had the opportunity to talk about the tremendous challenges the industry is facing when it comes to making cocoa more sustainable. At that time, a challenge was issued – can the sector come together to work in a cooperative manner to put farmers first?
We knew that the solution to the problems facing farmers and the industry as a whole is to increase farmer productivity so that they can increase their wages, invest in their families, and improve the quality of life for them and their families. And we also knew that the industry has the knowledge and the ability to help farmers triple their yield, a key component to increasing their productivity. But what we didn’t know is if we could impart this knowledge at the scale we need to have the impact that is necessary. Reaching millions of cocoa farmers around the world would require more than just the efforts of one company, it would entail a sector-wide initiative.
Two years have passed, and I am once again speaking at the CHOCOVISION conference. While many of the same sustainability challenges remain, this year I can report on the tremendous progress the industry is making in working together. The CocoaAction strategy that Mars Chocolate and 11 other companies support is one important answer to the challenge issued a few years ago.
Created under the auspices of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), the CocoaAction strategy is focused on specific, collaborative measures to increase productivity and support community development for at least 300,000 farmers in Africa by 2020. The WCF has secured voluntary industry commitments that will align private sector efforts on a non-competitive basis to ensure the cocoa production system in West Africa is developed at scale. The strategy will first be implemented for farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, whose governments have formally endorsed the plan, and will later be extended to other cocoa producing countries. Participating companies include ADM; Armajaro; Barry Callebaut; Blommer Chocolate Company; Cargill; Ecom; Ferrero; The Hershey Company; Mars, Incorporated; Mondelēz International; Nestlé; and Olam International Ltd.
The CocoaAction strategy is an important moment for the chocolate industry and we should rightly be pleased that we are coming together in this uncommon collaboration to put farmers first. But there is a lot more to be done – as I will tell my colleagues, “now, let’s get to work!”