Every Banana Matters: Fair Trade Difference in Southern Ecuador
Guest blog post by Melody Meyer, VP of Global Initiatives at Albert's Organics
Every Banana Matters
This guest blog post comes to us from Melody Meyer, VP of Global Initiatives at Albert's Organics. She specializes in importing fresh organic and Fair Trade Certified produce into the United States.
When I first began purchasing bananas for Albert's Organics, Fair Trade was a new concept in banana sales and only represented a small fraction of our bananas business. Since bananas are one of our leading produce items in terms of sales, I thought it important to get closer to the producers. I soon realized that purchasing a Fair Trade Certified banana was a way to become directly involved with growers, to benefit those growers and to have a unique product in the banana market. Win win for everyone!
In December 2006 I accompanied Hannah Freeman from Fair Trade USA (then known as Transfair USA) to the growing regions of Southern Ecuador and Northern Peru. She was my guide for the first of many trips to this area of the world. As I traveled south into the banana-growing regions, I witnessed various signs of poverty. Buildings without running water or electricity. Homes made from bamboo with no windows or doors exposing their tattered innards to the street. I was clearly not in Kansas anymore, that first trip was shocking!
During that and subsequent trips I have been honored to meet many grower associations that represent hundreds of small banana producers and help them bring their bananas to market.
The growers associations represent small land-owning producers that often farm a mere 5-10 hectares. These small farms may produce 10-50 cartons of bananas each week. Conventional bananas sometimes sell for $5.50 per box which leaves (you do the math) very little for an entire family to live on.
I soon discovered that Fair Trade and Organic bananas bring stability to this landscape of low prices and poverty that dominate the banana growing regions.
Because of the stable price and Fair Trade community development premium paid on each box, the grower associations can provide real social services that would otherwise be unavailable and out of reach in these communities. I have over the years documented in photos the real and tangible benefits that result from the Fair Trade premium, including:
- Bathrooms and running water at the banana processing locations (many homes do not have these facilities)
- Health care and health insurance for the banana producers
- First Aid supplies and training
- Preventive medical research
- Education: Families receive school materials or a bonus for student costs
- Tuition: Families receive money to pay for classes so the children do not work in the fields
- Activities and childcare
- Soil fertility
- Compost Production
- Environmental protection measures
- Reforestation and preservation of heritage trees
- Recycling of farm wastes and plastics
Albert's Organics currently carries Fair Trade Certified bananas and mangos. Our Fair Trade banana sales have increased by 70 percent over the last 5 years and are now nearly 50 percent of our entire banana volume. We do this by telling the story of our growers and providing marketing materials to stores. We even produced a video on our Fair Trade program:
The Fair Trade business is a great win for our company and for the growers. I have returned back to these growing regions several times since 2006, and I now consider many of the growers good friends. Each time I return I witness evidence that the Fair Trade premium is making a tangible difference in the lives of our banana producers.
Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
I am proud to connect these growers with our customers and increase the number of Fair Trade items and cartons that we sell. When we sell products with the Fair Trade Certifified label, we are really selling hope and prosperity for small-scale producers far away. Enjoy your bananas and mangos, and please encourage everyone to buy Fair Trade Certified products. It makes a difference.
Every year my pictures get happier, with smiling prosperous people!