Yadira Orozco works at banana farming co-operative ASOBANARCOOP, where the Fairtrade Premium is being invested in new infrastructure and women’s empowerment.
This is Yadira Orozco, a Colombian banana farmer who is the legal representative and part of the education and management committees for ASOBANARCOOP.
Yadira owns her banana farm – converted from pastureland by her father – with her siblings. She lives in the nearby town and has two children who have left home. Her daughter is a medical cosmetician and her son an engineer. Yadira’s nephew is studying agronomy and she hopes he will come back to work on the farm when he graduates. This is a sign of the shifting attitudes towards banana farming. Until recently, up to 90 percent of ASOBANARCOOP members were over 60 years old. Now, their sons and daughters are taking over the reins.
Background to ASOBANARCOOP
ASOBANARCOOP was set up in 1987 by 17 farmers who formed an association to collectively export their bananas and improve their livelihoods. The association then became formally registered as a co-operative in 2002. The banana industry has provided the large majority of employment in Magdalena; however, large-scale palm oil plantations are now displacing bananas with the loss of many jobs. Farmers are under constant pressure to sell their land to big businesses. Climate change is also increasingly affecting productivity – farmers face drought or water shortages, and contend with adverse weather conditions, particularly strong winds, heavy rains and floods that damage crops.
Fairtrade Premium funds have meant the farmers and workers at ASOBANARCOOP can invest in the co-operative’s infrastructure, as well as the local community. Farmers have spent their Premium on a new warehouse, sanitation block, irrigation system and flooring in the packaging area.
Being Fairtrade certified has also helped the co-operative pay for the certification costs of becoming organic, meaning they receive a higher price for selling both Fairtrade and organic bananas. This means they can protect the local environment and develop a healthy microclimate that prevents the devastating Sigatoka fungus from developing.
Yadira and other women farmers and workers have also used the Fairtrade Premium to invest in business training and to create a group of women entrepreneurs.
The Fairtrade Premium has been used to fund courses that educate women in entrepreneurship and change outdated attitudes to gender equality.
Yadira says: ‘Now with Fairtrade, we have been able to take courses, educate the women. We have a group of women farming entrepreneurs with the help of Fairtrade.’
After attending the course, Yadira became part of the management team for ASOBANARCOOP. She has encouraged family members and other women farmers and workers to attend the course at a local university. This has led to many women taking up administrative jobs and having an active role in decision-making on their farms.
‘I am the head, I am the one who gives direction, I am the one who runs it, let’s do this or that. Before there was always the machismo to deal with – I am in charge, and a woman’s place is in the kitchen. That attitude has changed so now you have representation and I have representation and everyone follows the process.’