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Barry Parkin

Chief Procurement and Sustainability Officer, Mars, Incorporated

Cocoa farmers face persistent barriers to achieving a living income. While dozens of commitments have been made, the unfortunate reality is that smallholder poverty has not ended. That’s why a new approach is needed.

Recently, Mars and partners including Fairtrade, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Institute for Development Impact (I4DI), and ECOOKIM announced two farmer-first programs (LEAP & ACTIVE) aimed to support 14,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia on a path to a sustainable living income in the next eight years.

These programs build on the knowledge and insights of the Farmer Income Lab  which Mars founded in 2017. The Lab reviewed more than 1,500 studies detailing common interventions to increase farmer income and found that only three of them raised incomes by more than 50 percent and could be sustained over time.

Through the Lab’s research, we have begun identifying what actions and activity can drive meaningful change – and be scaled. We believe sourcing strategies must:

  • Bundle interventions in order to address multiple barriers to a meaningful income at once;
  • Customize approaches to meet farmers’ unique needs;
  • Prioritize long-term, equitable relationships with farmers; and
  • Strengthen farmers’ market power.

These critical success factors have informed our two new farmer-first programs:


FIL research tells us that bundling is probably one of the most important success factors for interventions. It provides a useful first step in a more holistic approach and enhances and expands the likelihood of positive impact. In order to drive long-lasting systemic impact our two pilots will have a multidimensional approach. They bundle interventions such as promoting scalable agroforestry models to address both climate change and adaptation and income diversification measures, enabling access to financing and crop insurance, strengthening cooperatives, and building partnerships to improve the enabling environment.


There is no one-size-fits-all solution as each farmer faces different needs and barriers, has different capabilities. This is why we are customizing our approach to pinpoint and meet the farmers’ unique needs, providing tailored packages to move towards a living income, regardless of each farmer’s starting position.

Many smallholder farms are family businesses, and we want those farming businesses to be successful for generations to come. From FIL research, we learned that going beyond selective, short-term interventions, developing close long-term farmer relationships is pivotal in achieving sustainable change for farmers.

Sharing & Partnering

Building relevant partnerships, sharing knowledge and learnings will lead to industry success. As these programs are underway, we’ll need to adjust, learn, and share insights with partners and peers as we see successes and hurdles. Working together, these two new farmer-first programs will be tailored to varying sizes of smallholdings in different environments, contexts, and markets to meet farmers’ specific challenges with customized combinations of interventions. By tracking progress and sharing learnings along the way, we are optimistic about realizing the blueprint that can make systemic change a possibility. Alongside our partners, we’re excited to embark on what could be the industry’s most comprehensive effort to date through ACTIVE and LEAP.

Mars will be reporting regularly on progress through our Cocoa for Generations and LEAP pages.