Mars, IFAD back project to help small producers export cocoa

Filipino cocoa producers are set to benefit from a $4-million joint research-in-development project supported by international groups that seek to link small-scale farmers to the global supply chain through sustainable ways.

In a joint statement, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mars Inc. and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) said they have launched a five-year research-in-development project that seeks to “explore environmentally sustainable ways to link small-scale producers to global supply chains.”

The project dubbed Sustainable Farming in Tropical Asian Landscapes (SFITAL) aims to explore how agricultural systems can be managed sustainably in entire landscapes in a way that respects the environment and enables the producers to thrive, according to the statement.

“This agreement heralds a significant step in the transition to more sustainable food systems,” ICRAF Director-General Tony Simons said.

“We anticipate that millions of small-scale producers, consumers and the global climate system will benefit enormously from research in development of the tropical agricultural landscapes.”

The collaboration was launched on July 1 and is supported financially and on the ground by IFAD, Mars and ICRAF.

SFITAL would focus on palm oil in Indonesia and cocoa in Indonesia and the Philippines.

“These raw materials are major sources of livelihoods of those living in rural communities who rely on them for employment and business opportunities, yet they are cultivated in areas facing environmental threats, ranging from water stress to deforestation,” the statement read.

IFAD’s regional economist for Asia and the Pacific Fabrizio Bresciani said the joint project would “promote better farm management, lower transactional costs and higher production standards.”

“IFAD is committed to supporting small-scale producers to improve the sustainability and profitability of their farms through better practices, and this grant does that,” Bresciani said.

“We will establish innovative traceability systems so small-scale producers can participate in highly profitable and sustainable cocoa and palm-oil value chains.”

IFAD said small-scale producers in tropical regions face numerous challenges which include climate change, poverty, slow or unresponsive governance systems with little interconnectivity and environmentally unfriendly infrastructure.

These producers are also at risk of social conflict and have limited access to finance mechanisms as they are unattractive for investors, IFAD added.

“Mars has a responsibility to the millions of small-scale producers in our value chains,” said Barry Parkin, chief procurement and sustainability officer.

“And for many of these producers, meeting sustainability standards that are required for access to global markets is incredibly costly. We believe this landscape approach will demonstrate environmentally and socially viable models for more effectively integrating small-scale producers into global supply chains.”

IFAD said the progress of the project will be watched closely by governments, development agencies, farmers’ associations and the private sector.

“The SFITAL team encourages more multi-sectoral collaboration to help expand the scale of sustainable farming, ensuring the swift transformation of the world’s food systems.”

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