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Frank Mars and Gilbert Houngbo Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Frank Mars, Board Member, Mars, Inc. and Gilbert Houngbo, Director-General International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), attend The 2017 Concordia Annual Summit at Grand Hyatt New York on September 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Mars, IFAD sign MOU to help smallholder farmers

IFAD and Mars will work together to help farmers increase productivity and quality.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Mars Incorporated have pledged to work together to increase economic opportunities for farmers in developing countries.

IFAD President, Gilbert F. Houngbo, and Frank Mars, Board Member of Mars Incorporated, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the side lines of this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York. The agreement outlines how IFAD and Mars will work together to provide farmers in Mars’ extended supply chain with greater access to the tools, technology and training that will help them improve their livelihoods.

Three quarters of the world's poorest people and most undernourished people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. Yet millions of rural people lack the resources, training and infrastructure to change their lives. 

“Agriculture can generate great prosperity for smallholder farmers and it can lift millions out of poverty, create new jobs and business opportunities for rural people, especially youth,” Houngbo said. “We look forward to working with Mars to further develop the potential of smallholder farming, by improving the sustainability of their production and opening doors to new markets.”

The signing of the MOU follows the launch of Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation plan, in which it will invest $1 billion over the next few years to tackle urgent threats including climate change, poverty in the supply chain and scarcity of resources. As part of the plan, Mars has announced an ambition to meaningfully improve the working lives of one million people in its value chain to enable them to thrive. 

“As a business with agriculture at our core, we have a responsibility to look after the farmers in our value chain. If we’re to have secure and sustainable access to the raw materials we all rely on, from mint to cocoa and rice, today’s farmers, and next generation farmers who cultivate these crops must be successful too,” Mars said. “Our impact is greater when we collaborate with others so we are pleased to be announcing our partnership with IFAD to continue building on the positive work we have already begun.”

As part of the new agreement, IFAD and Mars will work together to provide farmers with training and technical guidance that will increase productivity and quality standards, and support more environmentally sustainable farming methods.

In addition, the two will explore opportunities to support smallholders in Mars’ value chains by brokering greater access to markets that will in turn help farmers increase their incomes. The focus on increasing incomes is also a key part of Mars’ newly launched Farmer Income Lab, a collaborative “think-do tank,” focusing on generating the missing insights needed to eradicate smallholder poverty.

On an international and regional level, IFAD and Mars will also advocate for smallholder agricultural development and sound environmental management to contribute to thriving communities.

The Sept. 18 announcement marks the deepening of the existing relationship between IFAD and Mars, who have collaborated in the past to support smallholder farmers. In 2012, Mars partnered with the Indonesian government and IFAD to open Cocoa Development Centres which provide cocoa farmers with training in new techniques to care for their trees, maintain their farms and produce more and better cocoa. For many farmers, their cocoa yields doubled as a result.

With the agreement now underway, the two partners are looking for opportunities to collaborate in other countries, including Cambodia, India, Cote d’Ivoire among others.

Collaborations already underway include:

  • Increasing incomes for small farmers in the Philippines through improved farm productivity and intercropping. Mars is currently exploring on-the-ground partnership with IFAD to support and connect processors and smallholder farmers in coconut and cocoa.
  • Increasing business for smallholder rice growers in India. IFAD and Mars are exploring opportunities to synchronize investments to support female smallholder rice growers through financial literacy training and market access.
  • Expanding partnership to improve access to markets, training and technology for cocoa farmers in Indonesia. Mars will host training activities for over 1,000 farmers at its Cocoa Academy facility. Overall, 382,500 individuals are expected to directly benefit from this project.

Source: Mars, Incorporated

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