Mars launches Farmer Income Lab to help eradicate smallholder poverty

Nutritional giant Mars has today (10 July) launched a programme which aims to foster cross-sector collaboration to improve smallholder farmer incomes across agricultural supply chains.

Mars has acknowledged that farmer poverty poses a serious risk to long-term business reliance and growth

Mars has acknowledged that farmer poverty poses a serious risk to long-term business reliance and growth

The Farmer Income Lab will commission research and generate discussion to develop measurable frameworks and new business models to significantly reduce farmer poverty.

It will be tested through Mars’ Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming scheme, which seeks to improve farming and production methods, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and improve the living standards of local communities in developing countries.

Mars’ chief sustainability & health and wellbeing officer Barry Parkin said: “At Mars, our ambition is that those working across our extended supply chains should earn sufficient income to maintain a decent standard of living.”

‘Too big to solve alone’

The project will adhere to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) One which calls for an eradication of poverty, which affects many of the estimated 200 million smallholder farmers producing food within global supply chains. Mars has acknowledged that farmer poverty poses a serious risk to long-term business reliance and growth.

As such, the business will share insights to help drive wider change across industry supply chains. The Lab will receive support from advisory experts from academia, non-profit and intergovernmental organisations. Development charity Oxfam has already been signed up as the first member, with future participants due to be announced in the next few months.

“We value their deep subject matter expertise across a wide range of poverty and development issues,” Parkin said. “Together, we will work to build supply chains where everyone wins.

“We know the industry must do more to tackle these issues. The poverty challenge is too big for any one organization to solve alone. It needs all of us – businesses, NGOs and governments – to convene and collaborate, each playing our own unique role.”

Sustainable nutrition

The launch of the Farmer Income Lab forms part of Mars’ overarching efforts to improve the sustainability of its supply chain. In 2015, Mars and Danone announced their intentions to invest €50m each to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers to prioritise key crops including cocoa, sugar and palm oil across 40 projects worldwide.

Mars has committed to purchase 100% of its several key raw materials through independent certification programmes that share these same goals, such as the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International. In 2015, Mars Bars containing Fairtrade-certified cocoa went on sale in the UK for the first time.

Mars was one of 12 leading coca and chocolate companies, including Mondelēz International and Nestlé, which earlier this year agreed to end deforestation in the global cocoa supply chain. More than 76,000 farmers have seen a significant increase in their income and cocoa yield as result of a global sustainable sourcing programme launched by Mondelēz International.

George Ogleby


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