Cerro Azul - Asoc. Pequeños Productores Bananeros Cerro Azul
Cerro Azul places particular emphasis on the training and education of members in all aspects of the business, from farming techniques and labor safety to marketing plans and rules of the company. They believe that education is empowerment, and empowerment will lead to the production of excellent bananas and a strong, unified cooperative. For example, technical assistance programs train and advise producers about land rehabilitation and conservation, soil and bio-fertilizers, and production techniques to maximize both quality and quantity.
The association also addresses the challenges that small producers face in a sector dominated by large, multinational companies. In order to compete more equitably with the massive, conventionally-producing plantations, Cerro Azul used Fair Trade Premiums to construct a collection center in which the small producers can assemble their products. Selling their products as a team allows them to stand united against the larger farms in an otherwise ruthless marketplace.
Cerro Azul also allocates money from premiums for school fees, building playgrounds, and celebration. For example, they host an anniversary party to recognize their accomplishments each year, during which members and their families come together to commemorate their hard work, progress, and achievements with music and dance, and “the common denominator of this party is brotherhood.” Fair Trade USA recognizes Cerro Azul for their inclusive, democratic spirit and their smart investments in the future of both their business and their community.
The technical assistance has been one of the most invested upon areas and this investment has resulted in high quality fruit ”
Cerro Azul Member
We've developed a plot of land and constructed an office, a processing center and warehouses all of which have helped us improve our producer services; the improvements have also helped us take more care in shipments of of the fruit to our customers. ”
Cerro Azul Member
With Fair Trade premium funds, members of Cerro Azul in 2011 received new soil fertilizer, personalized technical assitance and financial assistance to pay off loans for the acquisition of new lots of land. New fertilizer helped improve the quality of the soil and thus the quality of the fruit. Technical assistance was tailored to individual members’ needs which improved quality levels substantially. The acquisition of new lots of land included space for offices, collection centers and warehouses, which would provide better services to producers and improve the way final products are handled just before they are shipped to their markets.
A total of 100 producers (60 Organic, 40 Conventional) received individualized soil analyses which describes the needs of each farm. These different needs then create a fertilization and nutrition plan which improve the productivity of the land and plants without degrading the soil.
Premium was invested in reforestation programs and a project which seeks to preserve the topsoil of the farmland. They achieved these projects by following these practices: cover the ground with kudzu and perform risk analyses in regards to chemical contamination on organic farms.
Specifics involve building nurseries for the kudzu plant, mapping wet-zones, and planting of various protective species in the farmlands. The group is also planting specialized shrubs near watersheds to protect against contamination.