‘Do you have to do your shopping?’, says a voice message sent via WhatsApp. ‘First, try to limit the times you go out for the market or the store. The ideal would be to go out once a week, not every day. To go out, you must wear a facemask’, continues the message shared to workers, organisation members, and their families by the Ecological Bananas of the Northwest Line (Banelino).
At least three times a week, the organisation sends messages in Spanish and Creole in a communication chain to prevent COVID-19 contagion, explains Rosalba Gómez Jaquez, Banelino’s Fairtrade official. These messages are accompanied by visits from five health workers from the organisation, who follow up on patients with chronic diseases, deliver their medicines, as well as provide them with information about the virus, its symptoms, and how to avoid contagion.
Banelino’s philosophy is one of union, solidarity, humility and respect, where small scale producers work together to find solutions to the problems that affect them; among these, unstable markets, low prices and low demand for bananas.
‘At Banelino we understand that in populations with little resources and deficiencies in health services, coronavirus prevention is key to save lives. The house to house visit has been very effective, because it allows a more personalised service, mostly for people with low educational levels that have no access to information, migrant families that do not speak the language, and the elderly’, says Marike de Peña, Banelino’s director and president of CLAC’s Banana Network.
For more than 15 years, the Fairtrade banana producer organisation has had a preventive health program, that serves more than 12,000 patients per year and which includes informative talks, medical consultations, dental services, vaccination programs, and follow-up appointments for patients with HIV, uterine cancer, hypertension, diabetes, as well as the delivery of medications.
In the farms and packing plants, the information on the preventive measures for the COVID-19 has been reinforced with the placement of posters in Spanish and Creole, which have been prepared with the support of CLAC’s operational team. This is strengthened by training all members and workers on safety protocols and monitoring compliance with them. In addition, Banelino has provided equipment for disinfecting footwear and work areas, and distributes masks weekly to staff to ensure they are as safe as possible.
‘The associates and workers of Banelino continue with their work in the field, since the banana harvest is weekly and mobilises many people, which requires a prevention approach and investment in pandemics such as COVID-19. Banana is the livelihood of many families, but it still puts them at risk if we do not know and implement security measures,’ says Marike de Peña.
‘As an organisation, we have withdrawn the elderly and people with health risks from production, while ensuring the payment of wages during the pandemic.’
Notes to the editor: Banelino is a Fairtrade producer organisation, certified since 2000, which currently has 300 associate producers and more than 2,000 workers in the Dominican Republic.