“We need to begin with the individual farmers who make up the industry. To increase their yields and incomes, we need to help provide better access to improved planting materials, fertilisers and best-practices training. Our work in Indonesia and West Africa is a good start.”
So begins the Mars webpage on cocoa, explaining the company’s sustainability approach. In 2013 VECO (now Rikolto) started partnering with Mars on the island of Sulawesi. Together we invested substantially in training farmers to increase their yields and introduce new post-harvest techniques. But more specifically, Rikolto’s role is to increase the business capacities of the farmers’ groups. We aim for solid, trustworthy organisations of cocoa farmers that are capable of organising collective marketing and negotiating in a professional way on behalf of their members.
As cacao manager, I guide Rikolto's work in four different areas: Polman district, Masamba district, East Luwu district and Parigi district. All four have specific characteristics: the environment is different, the way the farmers are organised is different, but also the presence of Mars is not the same in every district. Generally speaking, Mars has two teams “in the field”: a commercial team and a sustainability team. In districts that have received a lot of support in previous years, there’s only a commercial team. The sustainability team operates where more support is needed. Accordingly, in each area we’ve worked with Mars to develop a different business model.