-The cooperative cares about us. When you work alone, nobody helps you. But Asoguabo’s engineers have taught us so much. We’re grateful and miss them the days they’re not here, says Alejandro Cerezo in La Libertad.
He laughs at the engineer throwing a glance at him from the packning house.
-Other companies don’t care. They never visit the farmers. But Asoguabo has given us ideas and taught us about the production process, fighting diseases, making the bananas grow better. If we make mistakes, they explain and help us work better. Our member association has a well organised headquarters. With Asoguabo, we feel proud, says Cerezo.
He joined Asoguabo three years ago, when the coop was looking for new members. Cerezo joined because Asoguabo helped him invest in an irrigation system, a packing station and the organic certification. The cooperative helped him become a banana farmer.
-I used to grow mostly cacao. I just produced five boxes of banana a week. Now i make 40-50 boxes, increasing all the time! I have land to plant on. My goal is 100-120 boxes a week. Almost the whole family works on the farm. But I have a big family, so there’s not enough work for everyone.
Cerezo’s farm is no banana field with plants in straight lines as far as the eye can see. It looks more like a garden with its orange trees, cacao bushes, lemon and zapote growing among the banana plants in a shady mix.
-Sometimes I sell them, sometimes I give them away and sometimes I eat them myself, he says about all the fruits on the farm.
Technical help to the farmers
- Asoguabo employs a number of agroengineers, who each are responsible for a group of farmers. They visit the farmers at regular intervals.
- Their job is to make sure the bananas are grown to reach a high level of quality, and that the farmers fulfil the criteria of Fair Trade and other certfications.
- The Fair Trade criteria are about the quality of the bananas as well as the production methods. For example, agrochemicals are only to be used when absolutely necessary, and the engineers decide which chemicals are used and when. Organic farms don’t use any chemicals at all.
- The waste has to be handled in an environmentally friendly way, and the production cannot harm the surrounding environment.
- The Fair Trade criteria on quality demand for example that the bananas have a certain length and thickness (at least 16 cm and 27 mm), and that the surface is not scarred.