Mars Inc. in McLean, Virginia, has announced a series of partnerships with leading international nongovernmental organizations and development agencies to support programs that provide economic, educational, and environmental assistance to communities in West Africa.
The company — the manufacturer of M&Ms, Snickers, and other products — is committing $4.5 million to the programs over the next three years, doubling its existing annual contribution to the International Cocoa Initiative. The company will partner with Africare, the International Foundation for Education & Self-Help (IFESH), the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ), and the Rainforest Alliance on projects designed to increase economic assistance for local cocoa farmers, improve local infrastructure and education, and enhance agricultural sustainability in the region. The company's partners will identify the areas of greatest need, develop specific projects to address those needs, and implement ways of working that maximize synergies between the partners and local governments.
Through the partnership, Africare, an NGO specializing in aid to Africa, will investigate how its resources can best be used in West African cocoa communities. IFESH will work to improve educational opportunities for farmers and children in the region, establishing multipurpose training centers focused on literacy development, health, and agricultural training, while the Rainforest Alliance and GTZ will work to support sustainable farming practices, including crop diversification and preservation of biodiversity.
"We are excited by this opportunity to work with partners that share our deep commitment to sustainable development in Africa," said Mars chief procurement officer Brice Russell. "Mars is committed to long-term solutions to enhance the lives of the people and communities where cocoa is farmed, and we expect the partnerships to positively benefit thousands of African farmers and their families."