”Together we’re stronger”

Washington Torres has been a member of Asoguabo's board and learned a lot through that job.

Washington Torres has been a member of Asoguabo's board and learned a lot through that job.

-Fair Trade has taught me what it means to be organized. Because we small farmers have organized, we have been able to stay in the market. In the last years, Fair Trade hasn’t been very profitable, but it has given us stability, and organizationally we are doing well, Washington Torres says.

Earlier, he was a cacao farmer. He started farming organic bananas for the stable income, and because he wanted to work without chemicals. And because Asoguabo was a transparent and responsable organization.

-The cacao farmers are not organized into co-ops. Together we have been able to survive and develop, slowly but surely. This is the difference with Fair Trade. We set the example  organizationally and productively.

With the fairtrade premium the farmers in his member association have realized a project to improve their productivity. They improved their irrigation, their packing facilities and planted more bananas.

What do you want to say to the consumers?

-To buy a little more bananas! We are many who are depending on the co-op. Almost 500 farmers, but also their families, employees, the people who work in transportation and selling farm supplies. Directly and indirectly the consumers are helping all these people. Fair Trade has helped the small farmers a lot. But now we have to compete with big plantations within Fair Trade too, in a system created to help small farmers. It’s hard to compete with their resources and low cost of production.

Read more about plantations in Fair Trade in a previous entry.

Fair Trade demands that the farmers organize

  • In order to be a part of Fair Trade, the farmers have to organize into cooperatives democratically run by their members. In this way Fair Trade wants to empower the producers. Read the exact criteria here.
  • Research shows that the organizational development that Fair Trade supports often affects the farmers’ lives more than the fair price or the fairtrade premium. It´s an indirect impact, because it´s the cooperative itself and not fairtrade criteria that improves farmers´ lives, but it would be impossible if the farmers didn’t have to organize in order to be accepted into Fair Trade. In Asoguabo, the constant technical support to the farmers is a good example. It’s a service the co-op provides, but nothing that Fair Trade criteria demand.
  • Want to know more? Read this case study of the co-op Coocafe in Costa Rica.
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