Oxfam fallout: Mars pledges to empower women cocoa farmers

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chocolate

According to the United Nations, women make up over 40% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, but yields for women farmers are 20-30% lower than for men because women have less access to improved seeds, fertilizers and equipment.
According to the United Nations, women make up over 40% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, but yields for women farmers are 20-30% lower than for men because women have less access to improved seeds, fertilizers and equipment.
Mars Chocolate promises to assess conditions for women cocoa farmers and will sign up to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles after Oxfam accused it of neglecting gender inequality.

Eariler this month, Oxfam called on the three biggest chocolate manufacturers, Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé to conduct audits on conditions for women on cocoa farms after finding evidence of unequal pay, discrimination and hunger in its Behind the Brands​ report.

Ivory Coast assessment due

Mars today said it would complete an assessment of women cocoa farmers in its Vision for Change program, a program that will cover 150,000 farmers in the Ivory Coast by 2020.

A Mars source told ConfectioneryNews.com that a large number of these farmers would be women because most farms use family labor.

The factors of the assessment have yet to be determined, but are expected to include girls’ school attendance and women’s access training and materials.

Mars Chocolate also plans to sign the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles before 1 May 2013, and becomes the first of the big three chocolate makers to do so.

Time frames and reporting

The company said a plan of action on how its Vision for Change program can address gender inequality will be in place by 1 April 2014 after the initial assessment.

In 2014, the company will examine third party data on gender in the global cocoa sector to indetify knowledge gaps.

The company said that by 2015, it will advocate and support an industry-wide review of gender equity in cocoa production through selected sector wide organizations.

The chocolate maker will begin reporting on the conditions for women cocoa farmers in its main four cocoa origin countries by 2018.

Oxfam praised “Mars’ leadership”​ in making these initial commitments.

Nestlé and Mondelez

Nestlé responded to Oxfam in a letter​ dated 7 March, that said the firm  would explore how it can improve women’s lives through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan​ and the Rural Development framework..

It said it would consult with experts in the field to gather data, but set no time frames and did not sign up to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Mondelez sustainability director Jonathan Horrell told this site​ that his company assessed gender questions in the initial needs assessment for its $400m Cocoa Life program, but gave no details of further action or intention to sign the UN initiative on women’s empowerment.

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