Blas Arismendis Marcelino
Banelino, Dominican Republic
Blas Arismendis Marcelino Guzman was born in 1967 in the North West of the Dominican Republic, in a small community called Cruce de Guayacanes, nearby Laguna Salada. Blas studied in the secondary school “Matias Ramon Mella” in Esperanza, where he graduated as a technician in good agricultural practices.
His passion for agriculture was very much inspired by his grandfather, who he accompanied in his agricultural duties since he was a young child; learning how best to take care of each tree and animal without distinction of species and size. After his grandfather was no longer able to work, Blas took over, fulfilling their dream of “taking good care of our small piece of family land”.
Although life and family needs required him to emigrate to the United States and leave his land in the hand of others for a few years, his desire was always to return to his home town and family land. He returned to the Dominican Republic married and father to three children (one daughter and two sons) that share their father’s aspirations to cultivate the soil. Blas wife’s comments, “Where your heart is, is your treasure”. Blas’ family is motivated to work the land as a united family that cares about each other’s wellbeing.
Blas is an active member of the Banelino association, as all other members of the organization, Blas shares the values and principles of striving for justice, solidarity, union, loyalty and respect for humans and the environment.
“Banelino is like my second family, a strong union of committed persons united for a better tomorrow. I am proud to be a farmer and be able to support my family and others to build decent livelihoods.” – Blas
Banelino started its history in February 1996 when 7 small banana producers from the Juliana-Jaramillo region met below a mango tree in a banana plot located in Batey Juliana, province of Montecristi, North-West of the Dominican Republic, close to the Haitian border.
At that time the name “Banelino” as such did not exist, but the philosophy of union and solidarity was already present in the mind and actions of these small producers, that with humility and respect decided jointly to find solutions to problems as unstable markets, low prices and a lack of demand for smallholder bananas.
In the year 2000 producers from Juliana-Jaramillo and the Mao region legally formalized the Association “Bananos Ecologicos de la Linea Noroeste”, Banelino. Since then the organization offers technical assistance, training, commercialization and certification services with the aim to improve the livelihoods of small farmers, workers, their families and communities. Today Banelino has 348 members 70% men and 30% women.
Producers of Banelino care about the responsible use of soil and water sources, conservation of the environment is a key element of the integrated crop and soil management system Banelino implement. Banelino produces organic bananas associated with other crops like coconuts, cocoa, and fruits, and added value activities as beekeeping, bakery and handcrafts, to be able to increase farmer’s household income.
Banelino contributes to the development and progress of producers, workers, their families and communities through programs and projects dedicated to increase the competitiveness of small farmers in global markets, improve access and quality of rural education and health services, housing, alimentation, youth inclusion, recreation and environmental care.
The solidarity of Banelino farmers, their commitment to people, dignity and the planet, have changed lives and generated opportunities for future generations, including children with special needs that occupy an important place in Banelino’s past and future goals.
Banelino produce and export over 25,000 boxes of organic bananas weekly to different countries in Europe. Our bananas are globalgap, organic and Fairtrade certified.
Banelino producers have an average farm size of 4 hectares, with bananas being the main export crop. With the aim to increase household income and respond to climate changes challenges, farmers have introduced fruit trees and coconut palms at the borders of their plots to resist heavy tropical winds and flooding, as well as to generate some extra income and food security. Many farmers have aggregated beekeeping and some women producers generate extra income through baking with banana flour and making crafts with banana fibres.
Banelino participate in CLAC’s “Productivity Increase Program” (PIP), and has built its own biofermentos production plant to decrease dependencies on external farm inputs, reduce the costs of production, improve the health of the soil and reduce the use of water and pest disease controls applications. PIP together with Banelino’s focus on biodiversity, including the use of cover crops to protect and nourish the soil, has enabled farmers to increase sustainability and has motivated the youth to learn, participate and consider farming as their future.
The banana school of Banelino teach youth how to produce organic bananas, introduce biodiversity, take care of the natural resources, comply with national and international standards, administrate the farm and be part of the life and future of the association.
Banelino was one of the first Banana cooperatives in the Dominican Republic, starting in 1996. Fairtrade is our most relevant certification, without Fairtrade small farmers would not be able to participate in global banana trade, wherein 95% of the volumes are produced and traded by companies of scale.
The Fairtrade partnership creates access to markets and stability in trade that impact positively on the life of farmers, workers and communities, as the benefits of income and salaries are locally spent. Small scale farmers move
local economies and Fairtrade has added value by paying a better price and investing in social, economic and environmental needs.
Banelino members annually celebrate their General assembly, where the board and CEO report on the activities undertaken. The General Assembly approves the strategy of the Association, taking into account relevant information out of a baseline study and workshops held prior to the assembly. The strategy covers expectations with regards to the production capacity and quality, the environment, and social needs on family and community level. The strategy is the basis for Banelino’s annual operational and development plans.
How Banelino has invested the FAIRTRADE premium
- Strengthening of the Women Committee focused on women empowerment and participation in farming, added value programs (bakery, crafts) and the life of the association
- Strengthening of the Youth Committee focused on youth inclusion and participation in farming, income generating activities and the life of the association
- Banana School, each year 30-40 students are trained in organic production, biodiversity, beekeeping, biodynamic farming, farm administration, certification compliance, and more
Production and Quality;
- Agricultural farm insurance support (50%) to mitigate climate change risks
- Training of producers and workers in Good Agricultural Practices
- Improvement of infrastructure on farm level (packing stations, cable way, irrigation systems, roads, drains, channels)
- Collective production and distribution of fertilizers (compost, bokashi, biofermentos) and plants (nursery with cover crops, fruits, cocoa, coconuts)
- Collection and management of plastics
- Plant diversification, coconut and cocoa program
- Biodiversity, wind barriers (fruits), cover crops and crop integration (cocoa, papaya, etc.)
- Sponsorship of 8 local schools (1,100 students), 2 of the schools attend disabled children with special needs
- School transportation to nursery school (Bateys of Montecristi) and schools for disabled children (Esperanza and Mao)
- Scholarships for university and technical education (80 yearly)
- Health program for farmers and workers (surgeries, medicines, medical studies)
- Preventive health care program in 15 communities, medical assistance (consultation, dental care, vaccines, medicine, lab analysis) and follow up through health promoters (7,000 patients yearly)
- Banelino Clinic (medical assistance, medicines, laboratory, dental care, ambulance, diabetes program, etc; 5,600 patients yearly)
- Support of rehabilitation therapy community services (Mao and Montecristi)
- Religion (churches and community centers)
- Workers (improvement of 20-30 houses yearly)
- Farmers (improvement of 15 houses yearly)