Bananas are a favourite fruit in our grocery basket and are grown by millions of small-scale farmers and plantation workers in tropical regions.
Bananas are grown both on small family farms and much larger commercial plantations. The banana industry provides employment for thousands of people in Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. It generates vital foreign exchange earnings that governments depend on to improve health, education, infrastructure and other social services.
The Windward Islands, for example, traditionally earn around a fifth of their total export earnings from bananas alone. For Ecuador and Costa Rica, the figures are around 9 and 8 per cent respectively. In addition, the industry employs thousands of people in distribution networks and supermarkets worldwide.
The trade in bananas is a cornerstone of many developing countries’ economies, but the social problems in the industry are many and complex. Reports about problems in the banana industry often highlight the woefully poor situation of workers: low wages, precarious employment, restrictions on the right to organise themselves, and the handling of unhealthy and environmentally hazardous chemicals without adequate protection, to name a few.
For smallholder farmers dependent on growing bananas for a living, challenges abound too – with rising costs of production but stagnation in prices, and the severe impacts of changing climate and weather patterns making production unpredictable and unsustainable.
Stephen is the Chairman of the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA),
Vice Chair of St. Lucia National Fairtrade Organization, and Chair of Mabouya Valley Fairtrade Group.
Aimeth Fernández Angulo is a banana farmer and manager of ASOBANARCOOP, a growers’ co-operative in Magdalena, Colombia.
The enterprise was established in 1962 and operates in the municipality of Turbo, in the sub-region of Urabá Antioquia, approximately 340 km north of Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city.
Juliet’s role as Fairtrade Officer includes supporting VREL in complying with Fairtrade Standards and maintaining its Fairtrade Certification.