Why Do Banana Farmers Organize?

One of the peculiarities of organic bananas is that they can only be produced in a handful of countries in Latin America. Ecuador and northern Peru are the most favorable locations to produce organic bananas. With rising demand for organic bananas in the U.S., the new market opportunities for small-scale banana producers are promising. At the same time, the challenges are enormous: competition over land is rising, new plantations are emerging, multinationals are moving from Central America to South America, and the history of conventional bananas is primed to repeat itself with organic bananas. 

The co-op challenge 

Organizing into co-ops allows farmers to face these difficulties together, but organizing 133 small-scale banana farmers comes with challenges as well. The biggest hurdle that small-scale farmers face is the dysfunction of the system they are living in. The poverty level is considerable, basic needs are unmet, and social and economic problems are features of the daily routine. Low yield and high production costs prevent farmers from obtaining a decent income. If farmers are focused on surviving on a day-to-day basis, then the long-term benefits of being part of a cooperative can be a far-fetched concept.

In spite of these circumstances, some local leaders have faith in this larger dynamic of cooperation. These local leaders are training farmers on organizing and fostering partnerships with local or national organizations in order to be stronger as a whole, as opposed to individually. Slowly but surely, a small percentage of farmers are beginning to engage in this process.

Read the rest at Equal Exchange

 

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