Photo portrait of Mile Lou Tian Désirée

Fairtrade, ECOOKIM and Mars launch groundbreaking new livelihoods improvement program in Abidjan, supporting 5,000 ECOOKIM cocoa farmers on a path to a living income by 2030

This program will apply key learnings from other programs to tackle income inequities in cocoa farming with support from the Conseil du Café Cacao (CCC) and Ivoirian Ministry of Agriculture.

Hotel Tiama, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. — Today, Mars, Incorporated, ECOOKIM and Fairtrade launched a groundbreaking new cocoa farmer livelihoods improvement program — Livelihoods Ecosystem Advancement Program (LEAP) – in what they believe could be one of the industry’s most comprehensive efforts to date designed to address persistent barriers to cocoa farmers’ ability to achieve a living income.

The program was co-created by ECOOKIM farmer members, Mars and Fairtrade and aims to support 5,000 smallholder farmers in Côte d’Ivoire on a path to a living income by 2030. 

The findings from the initiative will be used to create a blueprint of interventions that can be scaled across the cocoa supply chain.

Speaking at the launch today, ECOOKIM Head of Sustainability Aminata Bamba said: “This program takes a holistic approach and seeks to address all elements necessary for a Living Income, rather than treating them in isolation or searching for ‘silver bullets’.

“Farmers may know best what needs to be done to improve their crops and their livelihoods but might not have the market support to make those changes.”

Commenting from the panel, Mars Director for Public Affairs West Africa, Anne-Marie Yao said: “Our goal of creating a more inclusive, modern and sustainable cocoa supply chain can only be achieved if farmers are fairly rewarded for their crucial role in producing the cocoa used in beloved chocolate brands. That’s why we developed our Cocoa for Generations strategy and it’s why today we’re working with Fairtrade and ECOOKIM to develop an ambitious blueprint that may be scaled to enhance farm resilience and support cocoa farmers on a path to a living income.”

The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, M. Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani said “I am particularly impressed with this approach, which seeks to be holistic and combine best practice interventions to achieve living income. As emphasized by the partners growers know better than anyone what needs to be done to improve their crops and livelihoods. I particularly appreciate that the partners are committed to learning together alongside growers to understand what works best for them and their households. The ‘try and learn’ approach of the program is extremely interesting, and I, personally, look forward to discovering what has worked well and what hasn’t.”

In this new effort, Fairtrade, ECOOKIM and Mars are working to help remove the obstacles in their path, particularly lack of access to finance and the need to adapt to climate change.

Most cocoa today is grown on small family farms with little access to electricity, clean water, reliable roads, or quality schools. Compounding these challenges are negative effects of climate change and persistent market failures, such as disconnection from formal financial systems, underdeveloped cooperative management practices, and lack of alternative income sources to offset market volatility. These obstacles can leave cocoa farmers in poverty, unable to invest in or grow their businesses due to factors beyond their control. Despite past industry attempts to improve farmer livelihoods, the unfortunate reality is that smallholder farmer poverty has not been eradicated.

Understanding there is no ‘average’ cocoa farmer, the program will focus on creating person-centric development journeys that recognise the vastly different starting points and ambitions of each cocoa farmer. This initiative will test and ascertain the most impactful interventions for improving living income for more than five thousand cocoa farmers across three priority areas:

1. Strengthening farmer cooperatives and market access for cocoa and other farm and non-farm goods.
2. Diversifying farmers’ incomes so both women and men farmers are less dependent on cocoa and can make money from other sources.
3. Expanding access to financial services like savings and loans, and mobile banking, so farmers can invest in their farms and their futures.

By learning out loud and engaging others in the effort, the aim is to forge new approaches that can raise industry standards.

For more information, images and interviews, please contact, tel +44 (0) 7886301486.

Notes to Editors

LEAP (Livelihood Ecosystem Advancement Program) – Côte d’Ivoire
Mars, Fairtrade and ECOOKIM are embarking on a holistic development journey to achieve and maintain a living income for cocoa growing communities. Drawing on more than 10 years of collaboration between the project partners, the LEAP program intends to address past market failures and permanently improve outcomes for farmers. This unique initiative integrates measures that promote systemic change. The goal is to establish the fastest, most efficient, most viable route to a living income for all cocoa farmers.

LEAP Program Snapshot:
Collaborating Partners:              Fairtrade, ECOOKIM, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Duration:                                   5 years
Reach:                                      5,000 farmers
Impact Ambition:                       Aims to help more than 70% of participating farmers achieve a living income by 2030. This would translate to over 100% income growth for most participating households and would help transform the rural economy to sustain incomes and economic growth beyond the program.

Innovation Focus:

  • Farmer segmentation strategy, activity bundling, and living income growth streams to meet unique farmer needs
  • Cooperative strengthening with expanded capacity, business sustainability, and improved service delivery provision (i.e., training/coaching, governance, access to inputs, market access) to provide members with support needed to thrive
  • Diversified household income with both on-farm and off-farm activities, specifically focusing on women entrepreneurship and market-linked supply chain development 
  • Expanded access to affordable finance

Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions, and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.

Fairtrade International is an independent non-profit organization representing 1.9 million small-scale farmers and workers worldwide. It owns the FAIRTRADE Mark, a registered trademark of Fairtrade that appears on more than 30,000 products. Beyond certification, Fairtrade International and its member organizations empower producers, partner with businesses, engage consumers, and advocate for a fair and sustainable future. Find out more at

Ecookim (Union of Kimbe Cooperative Societies) is a union of cooperatives with a board of directors that currently includes 30 cooperatives, 27 of which are cocoa and 3 cashew, and has more than 32,000 producers. It was created in August 2004 with 4 cooperatives, its vision is to be a reference cooperative in the service of sustainable development and the professionalization of producers and member cooperatives.
Approved for export since the 2005-2006 campaign, it was certified Fairtrade in November 2010, UTZ in May 2012, RAINFOREST ALLIANCE in April 2014 and Organic in April 2018. Today, thanks to its efforts, it is positioned among the best cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. Thus, since its creation ECOOKIM has been working to offer better living conditions to its members, their families and their communities through quality production for access to the best market.

Thanks to the certification premiums received, it carries out community projects, for the benefit of producers and their communities, such as access to drinking water, promotion of children’s education through the construction and equipment of public schools, the fight against the worst forms of child labor, the empowerment of women. It is also committed to the fight against deforestation; this commitment is reflected in its agroforestry program called “ECOOGREEN”.

For more than a century, Mars, Incorporated has been driven by the belief that the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today. This common purpose unites our 140,000+ Associates. It is at the center of who we are as a global, family-owned business, and it fuels how we are transforming, innovating, and evolving to make a positive impact on the world. 

Every year, our diverse and expanding portfolio of quality confectionery, food, and pet care products and services delight millions of people and supports millions of pets. With almost $45 billion in annual sales, we produce some of the world’s best-loved brands including Ben’s Original™, CESAR®, Cocoavia®, DOVE®, EXTRA®, KIND®, M&M’s®, SNICKERS®, PEDIGREE®, ROYAL CANIN®, and WHISKAS®. We are creating a better world for pets through nutrition, breakthrough programs in diagnostics, wearable health monitoring, DNA testing, pet welfare and comprehensive veterinary care with AniCura, BANFIELD™, BLUEPEARL™, Linnaeus and VCA™. 

We know we can only be truly successful if our partners and the communities in which we operate prosper. The Mars Five Principles – Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom – inspire our Associates to act every day to help create a better world tomorrow in which the planet, its people and pets can thrive. 

For more information about Mars, please visit  Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.