Women play a major role in agriculture, as farmers and through their work on family-owned farms.
Submitted by Mars, Incorporated
Their contribution is vital to growing important Mars crops, such as coffee, tea and cocoa, where women can provide up to 45% of the labor and frequently face discrimination.
Empowering women in agriculture will build stronger communities, better quality of life for farmers, and more sustainable and resilient supply chains. Research shows that women are more likely to spend additional income on things that assist family members and ultimately help the community as a whole, including food, healthcare, and education for their children. Mars believes that there is a strong business and community development case for empowering women cocoa farmers.
Mars’ gender work is based on an extensive assessment undertaken to evaluate the business case for supporting women’s rights. In the cocoa sector in particular, women often face challenges related to time-poverty, marginalization, unequal distribution of responsibilities and discrimination. Mars Chocolate recognizes that women are seldom considered as cocoa farmers even though they make up nearly half the labor force.
The assessment identifies specific inequalities faced by women producers, including:
Training: Compared with men, women farmers get less - and often inferior - training that is seldom suited to their schedules, needs and roles on cocoa farms.
Inputs: Female farm owners are less able to afford important inputs such as fertilizers and disease control agents, and to obtain credit or pay for hired labor.
Land rights:Due to gender discrimination regarding access to property, women face difficulties in accessing essential resources needed to participate in cocoa farming or to maximize their cocoa yields.
Discrimination:The assessment recognizes that gender discrimination creates barriers to involvement in politics and decision-making, joining cooperatives, accessing microcredit, and entering new markets.
Food security: Women form the cornerstone of family health and well-being. Empowering mothers and daughters in cocoa communities improves the role distribution and decision-making processes within the household, and consequently, food security and nutrition, child health, and long-term education prospects.
Vision for Change
Mars Chocolate’s Vision for Change (V4C) project in Côte d’Ivoire, was initiated in 2010. It is helping cocoa farmers improve their quality, yields and incomes, and is engaging with cocoa communities to promote social development and improved conditions. The Mars Chocolate Gender Action Plan, which entered its second phase in 2014, was put in place to better address gender issues into existing V4C work.
V4C’s gender-related activities strengthen the role of women in cocoa communities through the transfer of knowledge, skills and opportunities. These include:
Leadership and engagement: V4C’s local development committees identify, promote and manage projects to support the 75 cocoa communities where we work. At least 30% of the committee members have to be women, and we ensure that women’s voices are heard by conducting regular focus groups. These projects are financed by Mars, the Ivorian Cocoa Sector Management Committee and with significant contributions from participating communities.
Engaging civil society organizations:V4C is supporting 20 women’s groups in cocoa communities, with as many as 30 members each, to develop income-generating activities (e.g., vegetable growing and breeding small animals) to help them increase their household income and improve their business practices. Support includes training on production techniques and good agricultural practices, as well as on nutritional aspects (food preparation) to improve households’ nutrition and food security.
Supporting women entrepreneurship: : Cocoa Village Centers (CVCs), run by rural entrepreneurs, provide productivity enhancement services to cocoa farmers. Currently two CVCs are operated by women, and our goal is to increase this number significantly over time. We plan to increase the participation rate of women in CVC training from less than five percent to at least 20 percent during the second cohort training taking place in early 2016. CVC operators have a strong standing in the community, given their ability to train and improve productivity of cocoa farmers, and encouraging women to take this role can significantly empower women.
To measure the success of V4C, it is crucial to know how many women have been reached. Improved monitoring and evaluation of women in the cocoa supply chain is a key part of the Gender Action Plan, and is helping to strengthen the program.
Mars Chocolate will monitor:
The income of women involved in Vision for Change’s community projects
The attendance of girls in primary schools
The number of women in leadership positions, and their levels of influence in communities.
In September 2014, we organized a high-level stakeholder event to discuss the root causes and impacts of gender issues faced by women farmers in the cocoa supply chain in West Africa, including access to education, land rights and cultural inequalities.
The event was led by Mars President Grant Reid and Chairman of the Board Victoria Mars, and chaired by UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.
The discussions centered on the challenges faced by women farmers, including cultural biases, technological barriers, funding gaps, and poor education and health. This provided Mars Associates with an opportunity to listen to and learn from senior politicians, industry leaders and civil-sector innovators with expertise and experience of these issues. We also explored opportunities for global organizations such as Mars to drive best practice solutions.
In May 2014, Mars Chocolate pledged its support for the CocoaAction strategy, which are enabling 300,000 farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to increase their agricultural productivity by 2020. The success of CocoaAction will be measured against six key performance indicators, broken down by gender, and will include the number of women in leadership positions.
About Mars, Incorporated
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars’ first roots as a confectionery company. In the 1920s, Forrest E. Mars, Sr. joined his father in business and together they launched the MILKY WAY® bar. In 1932, Forrest, Sr. moved to the United Kingdom with a dream of building a business based on the objective of creating a “mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders” – this objective serves as the foundation of Mars, Incorporated today. Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars has net sales of more than $33 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 75,000 Associates worldwide that are putting its Principles into action to make a difference for people and the planet through its performance.
Mars brands include: Petcare – PEDIGREE®, ROYAL CANIN®, WHISKAS®, BANFIELD® Pet Hospital, CESAR®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES® and NUTRO®; Chocolate – M&M’S®, SNICKERS®, DOVE®, GALAXY®, MARS®, MILKY WAY® and TWIX®; Wrigley – DOUBLEMINT®, EXTRA®, ORBIT® and 5™ chewing gums, SKITTLES® and STARBURST® candies, and ALTOIDS® AND LIFESAVERS® mints. Food – UNCLE BEN’S®, DOLMIO®, EBLY®, MASTERFOODS®, SEEDS OF CHANGE® and ROYCO®; Drinks – ALTERRA COFFEE ROASTERS™, THE BRIGHT TEA COMPANY™, KLIX® and FLAVIA®; Symbioscience – COCOAVIA® and WISDOM PANEL®.
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