Mars joins with 12Tree and ECOM in major Latin American cocoa sustainability venture
Mars Wrigley has established a major Latin American venture with 12Tree, an agroforestry business and ECOM, a specialist provider of sustainable cocoa beans, to pioneer critical environmental gains within key agricultural supply chains, reports Neill Barston.
As the global confectionery group explained, under the Andean Cacao climate-smart initiative, it has targeted improvements in how cocoa is grown through driving modern agricultural practices focused on programmes regenerating soil within farming regions serving the sector.
According to the company, one of its core initial goals will be to revive over 2,000 hectares of cattle grazing land in Latin America into a highly productive, sustainable farm with the goal of delivering quality carbon-neutral cocoa beans. The project seeks to improve carbon sequestration, soil health, and biodiversity, create living-wage job opportunities, and support neighbour communities.
The move is part of Mars Wrigley’s wider global Cocoa for Generations $1 billion investment in delivering a fully sustainable cocoa supply chain within core West African markets of Ghana and Ivory Coast.
As the business unveiled in its latest report on the initiative last year, child protection featured heavily, with 51% percent of the total volumes of cocoa it sourced from at-risk areas in Ivory Coast and Ghana came from farmer groups with Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems in place.
Furthermore, Mars noted that the Andean Cacao agricultural operation has already prove in the past two years that degraded cattle pastureland can be restored to healthy, vibrant soil, by using a multi-species, technology-driven agroforestry cocoa model. This has been achieved through precision agriculture measures and tailored irrigation that has restored land to its former levels of productivity, improving soil organic matter by 11%. This is anticipated by the company contribute to increased carbon sequestration – the capturing and storing of carbon dioxide to positively impact on climate change.
Andean Cocoa has reportedly so far created over 225 jobs, with at least 20% of women in the workforce, supported by a $1.5 million project with the International Finance Corporation to build modern sustainable farming capabilities and community resilience for neighbouring smallholders. This includes more than 200 local cacao farmers benefitting from capacity building and technical assistance to help them achieve higher price points and improve productivity on their cocoa farms.
The overall project has also delivered greater exchange in scientific knowledge and cocoa agronomy innovation to increase productivity, combining 12Tree’s competence in transforming land through regenerative farming, and Mars Wrigley’s several decades of innovation and cocoa plant science capabilities. This has combined with ECOM’s long history of managing agricultural commodities in Latin America. Together they intend to prove new methods, technology, and sustainable farming techniques combined with a modern cocoa agriculture approach for farms to continue to increase yield.
Amber Johnson, Global Vice President of Cocoa Enterprise at Mars Wrigley, said: “Reshaping the future of cocoa means building a resilient supply chain, that protects the planet, improves working conditions, and enables communities to thrive. Piloting modern cocoa agriculture and climate-smart solutions brings a long-term perspective to this quest. I’m excited about the knowledge we will gather through the Andean Cacao venture to apply the best of Modern Sustainable Cocoa Farming elsewhere, to scale learnings, and to continue our journey to create a modern, inclusive, and sustainable cocoa supply.”
Xavier Sagnieres, 12Tree executive and Andean Cacao CEO, explained that the deal with Mars represented a groundbreaking project that would deliver further growth for its flagship project.
He said: “The project will bolster climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity enhancement, people well-being, and smallholder initiatives. We believe such a partnership can deliver revolutionary sustainable cocoa farming innovations thanks to knowledge sharing, collaboration to modernise agriculture practices, and joint efforts to create a sustainable value chain. We aim to scale a productive and profitable transformative model for growing cocoa while achieving positive environmental and social impact.”