Mars Empowers Women Cocoa Farmers in Cote d’Ivoire

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Last year, in April 2013, Mars Chocolate signed the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles to further its commitment to the empowerment of women in the cocoa sector. As part of its pledge Mars has released a gender assessment focused on women cocoa farmers in Cote d'Ivoire. This evaluation both measured the business case for strengthening the role of women farmers in cocoa communities and provided a roadmap for enhancing Mars Chocolate's existing efforts to engage women in its flagship programme, called ‘The Vision for Change’ in Cote d'Ivoire.

The study suggests that the long-­term sustainability of cocoa rests in parts on the ways the sector capitalises on the full potential of women who labour for long hours on cocoa farms and are integral to the farming process. Mars will ensure that its efforts to invest in these women cocoa farmers will directly reach 150,000 farmers in Cote d’Ivoire through its network of Cocoa Development and Cocoa Village Centres. Moreover, it is committed to improving the wages and quality of life of cocoa farmers through training and community development, and recognises that women cocoa farmers are a key part of ensuring that cocoa is sustainable, now and in the future.

There are important reasons for the industry to support the advancement of women in Cote d'Ivoire, especially as women are more likely to spend additional income they control on things that will ultimately help the overall community such as food, healthcare and the education of their children. There is evidence that empowering women will lead to greater productivity, improved quality of life and a more secure future supply chain.

The report also reveals the real plight of women in this region who are marginalised and held back by local cultural thinking, as poignantly, while women provide 45 percent of the hard work on cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivoire, they are often not viewed or referred to as "farmers." So, owing to inequitable civil liberties and social norms in the country, women are being held back from fully participating in the cocoa sector.

Therefore, the work of Mars Chocolate in this region will benefit women and their entire families, and contribute to cocoa productivity and the long-term sustainability of the cocoa sector. The findings and recommendations in this report will also serve Mars in assuming a leadership role within the cocoa sector with regards to recognising and supporting the influential role that women play in cocoa sustainability in this and future generations. 

Photo Credit: Mars