Friday, January 9, 2015

Banelino: Fair Trade and Organic

My F2F colleague, Maulio Soto and I, arrived in Mao, Valverde on Tuesday evening. The drive from Santo Domingo to Mao is a long one, but the views are beautiful. Early Wednesday morning we arrived at the Banelino headquarters in Mao. I spent the morning visiting the headquarters and learning about the Banelino operations. A non-profit cooperative, founded in the mid-90's by several small banana producers from the Mao and Montecristi banana producing regions, Banelino is now a cooperative of over 400 members. About 25% of the members are women and a large percentage of members are small producers working on about 4.5 hectares-size farms. Banelino's members' banana farms are fair trade and organic.

On Wednesday afternoon, I visited two banana farms that were in the process of packing the bananas. Banelino producers take pride in the quality of their bananas and their buyers have very high standards as well. The selection process of the banana sent abroad is intense. The large bunch comes across on the cable system and smaller "hands" (what we would typically call a bunch in the US) are cut and placed in tanks of treated water. From there, workers select the most perfect of the bananas for exportation. Those bananas then are placed in yet other tanks and selected a second time. Finally they are weighed, labeled, boxed and placed on the dock for pick up. A technician from Banelino is always on site to verify that the bananas are organic. Despite the fact that this is done outside, in the middle of the banana farm, the cleanliness and hygiene guidelines are strictly followed. The banana producers work side-by-side with the workers. As we were leaving, the refrigerated semis were waiting to pick up the bananas and take them to the port for shipment to Europe.

My take away from this visit is that the banana production is time-sensitive. fair trade and organic-certification requires great care during the production, harvesting, and shipping of the fruit. Banelino producers and workers take great pride in their organization, their livelihood, and the fair trade, organic bananas. 

Banelino administrative offices

Banana bunches on the cables prior to selection and packaging
One of the Banelino member producers with his bananas in the selection tanks
Banelino quality control at packaging point
Ready for the refrigeration semi to transport
No eating signage in Spanish and Haitian Criolle/Kryol
Ready for next harvest

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