Supporting Producers in Ecuador Through Fair Trade

Fair Trade is designed to help producers in developing countries to benefit from trading with developed countries, while promoting sustainability and social development in local communities providing the products. Ecuador is the biggest exporter of bananas in the world, but because most bananas are bought by large corporations with negotiating powers that keep the prices low, the communities growing the bananas do not necessarily reap the rewards of their labor. Fair Trade is working to change that, and consumers can promote and support the Fair Trade concept by buying products bearing the Fair Trade endorsement. Among others, Fair Trade endorsed products may include coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, flowers, honey and handicrafts – such as items made from tagua nuts and panama hats made from the leaves of the jipijapa palm (Carludovica palmate).

The Ecuador Fair Trade Association represents a group of seven flower producers in Ecuador which are Fair Trade Certified. With around 1,500 workers and around 122 hectares in production, the organization sets aside 10% of its sales value to invest in projects aimed at improving the lives of the workers it represents. Workers are also guaranteed to receive a fair wage and proper working conditions, while having the choice to join unions. Social development projects include health services, education initiatives, loans and funding of small business. The products provided by the Ecuador Fair Trade Association include a wide variety of roses, callas and spray roses – a cluster of six to ten roses on one stem – as well as foliage and fillers for flower arranging.

To ensure workers are not exposed to artificial fertilizers or dangerous chemicals designed to kill crop-destroying insects, Fair Trade certified farms use bio-fertilizers and biological methods of controlling pests, such as spiders and mites which are not harmful to the plants, but control insects. A pioneer project at one of the Fair Trade certified farms is converting waste to bio-fertilizer and bio-gas by means of bacteria decomposition. The only system of its kind in Ecuador at present, the ‘biodigester’ offers a safe and environment-friendly way to dispose of waste while at the same time making useful products.

AgroFair in the Netherlands is a Fair Trade organization which sources bananas from a number of South and Central American countries, including Ecuador. As a market leader in sustainable fresh produce production, the organization is producer co-owned, with smaller farmers working through cooperatives, which collectively form the Cooperative of AgroFair Producers (CPAF) – a shareholder in AgroFair – with the remaining shares held by investors committed to Fair Trade principles.

So, if you have the option of buying Fair Trade endorsed products, consider doing so. You may be helping a rural community in the fascinating country of Ecuador.