Manuel Sancho bends down on his knees with a cushion over his shoulders. Jorge Montoya lifts first one, then another banana box onto Manuel’s shoulders. Then Manuel gets up on his feet. He can’t streighten his neck under the burden, so his eyes are set on the ground. He and Jorge have to carry all the 40 boxes down the slope, through the forest to the nearest road. It takes about 15 minutes.
-We used to load the bananas onto horses, but the road was too bumpy and the fruits were damaged.
So now Manuel carries the boxes himself, slipping in the red mud, watching out for rocks and roots. The 40 boxes shipped today mean 20 trips up and down the slope. Manuel’s (25) sister Esther Sancho (40) owns the farm in Santa Isabel de Florida, 300 metres above the sea.
-We need a road to the farm, so we can reach it by car. But we can’t afford it. The price we get for our bananas is hardly enough for food. Everything goes to covering the cost of production. My husband works on a banana plantation to pay our debts, says Esther.
-Sometimes we want to leave the banana business, but there’s nothing else to live off here, says Manuel.
-And I like working on the farm. I’m proud of exporting high quality fruits. It encourages me to go on. But I would be even more enthusiastic if we got paid better for the hard work.
Esther Sancho has six children in the ages 9 to 20 years. She works on the farm three-four days a week, and the rest of the time she takes care of the home. To her, the farm is important.
-I used to work on a banana plantation, but thanks to Fair Trade I’m my own boss. I joined Fair Trade because I heard they pay a fair price and help the farmers. But the price should be higher, says Esther.
The fairtrade price for bananas is currently being revised.
-We think it’ll be raised. That’s why we go on.
Esther and Manuel don’t think the money from the fairtrade premium reaches them well enough. They think the premium should go directly to the farmers in stead of the co-op.
-Honestly, up to now the premium hasn’t benefited us very much.
Read more about the fairtrade price in previous entries: