By Cate Hickey, Fairtrade Manager

National Banana Day, Wednesday 20 April, is the perfect time to reflect on one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. With thousands of varieties, bananas are extremely versatile – perfect as a healthy snack and ideal to whip up delicious puddings, muffins and cakes – and the good old banana butty!

Sadly, small-scale banana farmers are currently tackling serious challenges to their livelihoods – from fluctuating market prices to the impacts of climate change. Here’s how Co-op’s commitment to Fairtrade bananas is improving farmers’ lives in Colombia, one of the key countries where we source Co-op bananas from.

Pioneering Fairtrade bananas

In 2000, bananas were a landmark ethical investment for Co-op as we became the first retailer to put Fairtrade bananas on our shelves. Fast forward to 2012 and we switched all our bananas to Fairtrade. And since 2018, we’ve ensured that Fairtrade producers benefit whenever we use bananas as an ingredient in our products.

I’d like to share five reasons banana farmers value Fairtrade – shared by Colombian banana farmers themselves. This is all made possible by their partnership with Fairtrade, our committed trading partner Fyffes, and Co-op’s commitments to sourcing Fairtrade.

Stable and secure businesses

When Colombian farmers sell their bananas on Fairtrade terms, they have a more steady, regular income.

Fairtrade farmers receive the Fairtrade Minimum Price – that covers the average costs of sustainably producing their crop. It acts as a safety net when market prices drop. If prices are higher, farmers get the market price and can always negotiate for more.

“With the arrival of Fairtrade, my life started to change.” – Valentina Barros

Empowered to improve

The Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum, paid on top of the Minimum Price, so that farmers can invest in social, economic and environmental projects to improve their businesses and communities. Farmers decide where to spend that money. Along with the Fairtrade Standards – protecting workers and their environment, this combination of benefits makes Fairtrade unique.

Colombian banana farming communities are spending the money on children’s education and creating new housing and better sanitation. They’ve also started up women’s entrepreneurial groups and local businesses to supplement their income.

A bright future for young people

Through these trading partnerships, co-operatives can plan ahead, investing in young people and the future of farming. The Fairtrade Premium means more young people in farming communities can access education. Some return to their farms and use that education to improve their family businesses.

In Colombia, the Fairtrade Premium is funding innovative educational projects that help young people protect the environment – which they share with their peers and families. As they help improve life on the farm today, many are inspired to become farmers of tomorrow.

Tackling the impacts of climate change

Farming challenges, like water shortages and poor soil quality, are being made worse by climate change. Farmers tackle these issues thanks to Fairtrade’s support. To sell Fairtrade bananas, farmers must improve soil and water quality, manage pests, avoid using harmful chemicals, manage waste, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and protect biodiversity.

There’s support and training available to adapt the way they work to meet Fairtrade’s environmental standards. Farmers can also spend their Fairtrade Premium on making changes that improve their infrastructure to mitigate climate change.

Women are supported to succeed

Women farmers in Colombia have less access to land, information, credit and training than men. With the commitment of trading on Fairtrade terms, women are succeeding on their own terms.

When they partner with Fairtrade, women are supported to participate equally in agriculture, earn better wages and diversify their income and opportunities. Producer networks are developing schools of leadership for women, so they have the opportunity to learn business, negotiation and finance skills. Many women now take on leadership and committee positions within their co-operatives and communities.

“We feel supported and backed by Fairtrade. It’s why we have become members, and why we want to be in this line of business, led by women.” – Maria Doris Ortiz

Women from the ASOCOOMAG Women’s Group

Please feel free to share these stories online, in person, and with your customers, families and friends. Let others know the real difference buying a Fairtrade banana from Co-op makes to the farmers and their families.

“I am very grateful to the people that buy Fairtrade, and that they continue blessing us with their support. Without it, we would be in a bad situation. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” – Alfonso Contreras

For more information about the Fairtrade Foundation click here. You can also read more about our Co-op’s Fairtrade commitments here.

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