Cerro Azul Organic Fair Trade Bananas

November 1st, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Cerro Azul Organic Fair Trade Bananas

Cerro Azul was formed in 2002 and became Fair Trade Certified in 2003. The cooperative is located near El Progresso in the hills of southeastern Ecuador and consists of over 100 farmers on 985 acres of land. In the 1990s, farmers were just cultivating banana plants to provide shade for the cacao they sold in local markets. They never had used chemical fertilizers or pesticides in this pristine region, but they were not at all attuned at the time to the growing worldwide interest in organic produce.

In June 2001, eight local producers got together in a small house to meet with agronomic engineer Galo Durazno, who brought not only his university knowledge of soil and agricultural production but also an awareness of the market value of organic production and the emerging concept of Fair Trade.

This fully organic cooperative has been able to implement many innovative programs with the help of premium funds since becoming Fair Trade. Cerro Azul provides trainings for its members in agricultural techniques to continually improve the quality of their bananas. They have instituted a reforestation and a recycling program with an eye on the long term environmental sustainability of their land and its ability to provide for their families for generations. A scholarship fund was established that pays for one year of tuition for the children of every farmer in the cooperative. Increased income and employment opportunities, thanks to Fair Trade, have revitalized this community and provide a blueprint for other small-scale farmers in the largest banana growing and exporting country in the world.

Fair Trade certification is a model of international trade that benefits over one million farmers and farm workers in 58 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Fair Trade empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace. In addition to fair prices, the growers and farm workers gain fair labor conditions and many benefits to their communities that otherwise would not occur, such as: health care, running water, bathrooms and new schools. None of the grower associations that we work with use the Fair trade premium for marketing or advertising. The premium always goes to social services.