Asoguabo has a visitor. Eric St-Pierre is a Canadian photographer who speaks French as his mother tongue. He’s working on a book about Fair Trade, and he’s in Asoguabo to document how fairtrade bananas are grown.
For over a week he’ll be driving around with the agroengineers to visit the farmers and capture their daily lives in pictures. The book will be published in April, in French and later in English. I catch a ride with him on the way to visit the farmers in Santa Isabel de Florida, and ask him what he remembers from his journeys.
-It’s fun to see some cooperatives grow really large, almost into development agencies. One example is the coffee cooperative Coopeagri in Costa Rica. They have their own huge bank, four supermarkets and a gas station. Another one is the cacao cooperative Conacado in the Dominican republic, which has become the number one organic cacao exporter in the world. They also have a cacao powder plant. They’re not just growing the raw material, they’re also transforming it.
He thinks bananas seem to be good business for the farmers, compared to many other fairtrade products.
-It’s money every week and not much competition. There’s 350 cooperatives growing fairtrade coffee, but not that many banana producers. The producers seem to be well off and the organisation strong.
Eric St-Pierre thinks one of Fair Trade’s most important benefits is the fact that the system encourages farmers to join together in cooperatives. There’s a lot of focus on the fairtrade premium the farmers receive, but he thinks the farmers benefit more from the democratic life and the social development that the cooperatives create.
-That’s why I dislike the fairtrade certification of plantations. There, the only benefit is the premium.
But Fair Trade is not the only solution, he says. The system is more like a seed that questions and offers a possibility for change to something better.
- Became interested in Fair Trade when he was studying photography and geography in 1995. As Fair Trade grew, he wanted to keep learning more about the different products, since the benefits are different for different countries and products.
- His first book, ”Des peuples et du café”, was published in 2003.
- His second book, ”Le commerce équitable – quand des hommes défient le marché”, was published in 2008.
- Since 1996 he’s travelled around the world, taking pictures of fairtrade small farmers in countries like India, Sri Lanka, the Dominican republic, Bolivia, Thailand, Costa Rica and Ethiopia.
- His next book will be published in April 2010. It will contain 14 chapters about different fairtrade products from 20 countries. One of the products is the banana, and some of the pictures in that chapter he’s taking right now in El Guabo.
- Read more on his webpage.