Fair Trade in Action!: Colombian Banana Co-operatives
The below article from The Guardian staff writer, Tim Adams, offers a view into how fair trade is actually making a difference in farmers’ lives.
Adams asked the banana farmers of one fair trade co-operative about the worst and best experiences they’d lived through. These Colombian farmers have lived through civil unrest, multiple hurricanes, cocaine drug wars, and have been mistreated and enslaved by multinational corporations like banana giant, United Fruit Company. They have watched as their family members went hungry, were abused or murdered, or lured into guerilla forces or drug cartels. But all this misfortune has not stolen from them their hope.
The article lists the things that have changed for these co-operative farmer-owners since starting their fair trade co-op a decade ago: “the fact that they can now withstand hurricanes, because the co-operative has built an insurance fund that supports the farmers affected; the fact that they can afford to invest in their soil management (they receive rigorous training – 31 days a year – in best practice from Fairtrade-sponsored specialists)[…]. But above all they point to the fact that they have learned solidarity, where once they thought they were on their own.”
“Their collective ambition has evolved. At first the plan was to put half of the thousands of dollars Fairtrade premium they received into increasing productivity. It was only after yields started to improve that they voted to create a minimum standard of living for each member of the co-operative. Most of the farmers had wooden shacks, in which they lived and slept. It was collectively decided each of the 46 farmers in the group should have at least a kitchen and a toilet and a living room. Two years ago, they achieved that aim.”
Most banana co-operatives in Colombia are also building schools and funding scholarships, investing in the next generation with their fair trade premiums. So no, fair trade isn’t just a label. It means many rural communities in the Global South are no longer forced to rely on volatile global markets, unsafe work conditions or unfair pay. Fair trade’s minimum crop prices and the potential for increased yields ensure families are safer, more educated and better fed. Doesn’t that make you feel even better about buying fair trade goods?
If you’d like to read more about how fair trade is impacting Colombian communities on the ground, click here.