Banana farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean are learning to increase their yields and reduce costs thanks to a new programme organised by Clac, the regions’ network of small fairtrade producers.
The programme, which was launched in 2014 and is highlighted in a new report published by Fairtrade International, looks to support farmers struggling to make their small businesses work in a tough banana market.
Clac began by studying 60 per cent of the banana network, working with 35 organisations and over 100 farmers to get to the bottom of what it described as “the productivity problem”.
Henry Fernández Guerrero, who belongs to the Fincas de El Oro co-operative in Ecuador, explains: “We are ‘learning by doing’. Everyone looks forward to learning the next farming technique. We are very motivated knowing that smallholder farmers are not forgotten in the banana world.”
Since the project began, 52 banana farmers from nine countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have taken part in activities to boost banana productivity.
Technicians from Clac have run a range of tests and workshops to promote knowledge exchange, and have also introduced new techniques, such as farming with more micro-organisms to return a natural balance to the soil.
As a result, farmers have managed to reduce the use of chemicals by half, Clac reports. This saves money and increases their productivity, meaning farmers earn a higher income.
“In the first year, incomes will increase by five per cent for banana farmers,” predicts José Madriz, Clac’s production manager for bananas. “Within four years, we expect farmers to be able to make reinvestments in their farms and have a larger Fairtrade Premium to make changes in their community.”