Annual Review 2017-18
cooperation for positive change in the banana trade
A record 300 delegates from over 40 countries across all continents participated in the Third Global Conference of the World Banana Forum (WBF) in November in Geneva, Switzerland. Bringing together all players involved in banana production and trade – producers, workers’ unions, retailers, importers, exporters, civil society and consumer organisations, research institutions as well as governments and intergovernmental organisations – the conference focused on: gender equity; labour rights; health and safety; sustainability, the environment and the impact of climate change; fair distribution of value; and combating the Tropical Race 4 disease which threatens the existence of the most common banana variety.
Arguably the most significant aspect of the conference was an emerging consensus that monoculture production cannot be sustained. Chiquita announced a drive to get all other big fruit companies to put money in a collective fund to invest in sustainable production systems while the largest producer and exporter in Africa, Compagnie Fruitière, announced that they were going to shift away from monoculture production towards agroecological systems with intercropping and even livestock.
The Conference celebrated the main achievements of the Forum including: a set of best practices for sustainable production available via a web portal; a practical guide for measuring and reducing the carbon and water footprints of growers; a global multi-stakeholder Task Force to combat Tropical Race 4; a commonly agreed method for calculating decent standards of living for workers at exporting-country level; and the facilitation of successful labour relations dialogue in Peru and West Africa in the Forum.
Video: Who are Banana Link?
Multi stakeholder collaboration and action towards sustainability
This report captures just some of BANANA LInk's and our partner's achievements over the past twelve months in working For fair and equitable production and trade in bananas and pineapples, based on environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Banana Link facilitated the participation of 30 representatives of Southern trade union and small-scale producer organisations, representing 600,000 workers and farmers, at the conference.
Priorities agreed ahead of the conference, at a meeting coordinated by Banana Link and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), were all reflected in the final Conference proposals, including: the replacement of an industrial monoculture by diverse ecological production systems; a new approach to industrial relations that treats workers and their unions with dignity and respect; and for a fair distribution of value along the chain that enables workers to secure a living wage.
Gender equity in the banana industry
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Banana Link is a pioneering not‐for‐profit organisation working in close partnership with small scale farmers and banana and pineapple workers organisations in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. We combine campaigning and advocacy with multi‐stakeholder dialogue to promote fair and equitable production and trade in bananas and pineapples based on environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Banana Link, as the coordinators of the WBF Gender Equity Task Force (GE-TF), led the preparations for, and facilitation of, the Gender Equity Meeting which preceded the WBF Conference. To support the meeting, Banana Link produced a publication - Progress towards gender equity in the banana industry - jointly with Fairtrade International, containing case studies of initiatives already undertaken by civil society organisations and trade unions to address the challenges facing women in the banana industry.
Nearly 100 participants discussed and developed proposals for future Gender Equity-Task Force and WBF activity in five key thematic areas: living wages and the gender pay gap; health and safety and specific risks for women workers/producers and their reproductive health; sexual harassment and gender-based violence; employment opportunities for women workers and the socio-economic impacts in banana producing communities; and women’s empowerment (including access to promotion and training) and active participation in decision making.
The meeting recommendations, presented during the opening plenary session of the WBF Conference, are informing the future agenda of the both the Task Force and the WBF.
Banana Link has already helped to establish the two following projects in response to specific recommendations from the Gender Equity Meeting.
Improving and Increasing Women's Employment at Golden Exotics Ltd
Banana Link and the IUF are working with Compagnie Fruitière to find practical ways to improve and increase women's employment at their Ghanaian subsidiary Golden Exotics Limited (GEL). Women currently make up 8% of the workforce.
| Annual Review 2017-18
Third conference of World Banana Forum
Banana Occupational Health and Safety Initiative (BOHESI)
Banana Link is a co-coordinating partner in the World Banana Forum’s Banana Occupational Health and Safety Initiative (BOHESI) project which has produced the first ever industry specific Occupational Health & Safety manual.
An OHS training programme that will reach over 55,000 banana workers in Ecuador began in the first half of 2018, with a further training programme in Cameroon scheduled to launch in the autumn of 2018. The aim is to build the skills of management and union representatives to use the manual to build worker awareness of health and safety risks and how to both manage and reduce these. Project activity also includes advocacy for better health and safety practice at plantation level, including effective health and safety committees.
A Banana Link led WBF Working Group is working with the Global Living Wage Coalition of certifying bodies to calculate living wage benchmarks in a number of producer countries.
A study on living wages was published and validated by industry actors in Ghana in September, recognising that the size of the gap between current wages and the living wage level calculated. In Costa Rica, the results of the living wage benchmarking study are currently being reviewed. Living wage benchmarks are also being prepared for banana regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Belize, and an ambitious programme is being planned for 2019.
A series of workshops in January bought together management and workers to respond to BL commissioned research conducted in the local community to better understand the barriers to women seeking employment at GEL.
In this video, Adwoa Sakyi of IUF Africa outlines these barriers and her hopes for the new project. Supervisor training has already begun with a range of plantation-based activities planned, including broadening the range of tasks open to women and increasing opportunities for promotion.
Costs of Sustainable Production
Following debates at the WBF Conference, the WBF is seeking to bring together representatives of producers, traders and retailers to understand the different costs of production along banana chains and how each player could contribute to ensuring that the costs of sustainable production can be covered by prices at different stages of the chain. The group will look at establishing a permanent monitoring mechanism of costs in exporting countries and start the process of internalising costs such as the payment of living wages into prices paid.
"Securing the Future of the UK’s Favourite Fruit"
We hope that the work of the BananEx project with Exeter University and the WBF Secretariat, in which Banana Link are partners, will complement the above activity, through discussions between corporate actors, including retailers, about risks to the future of the UK’s favourite fruit, including that of low pricing in the UK market coupled with demand for high ethical and quality standards. The aim of the British government funded project is to identify strengths and weaknesses in the system and consider how the resilience of the banana supply chain might be strengthened in future.
The scientific work includes investigating the influence of climate change and extreme weather events on production, and the threat from plant diseases, particularly black sigatoka and the potential threat of Tropical Race 4 (TR4) of soil-borne fungus Fusarium Wilt in the main exporting regions. Will the status quo of Cavendish production be maintained by application of novel fungicides and genetic engineering, or will a less intensive system that enhances soil antimicrobial action via mixed cropping, organic amendment and biocontrols take its place? The project will also undertake economic analysis of how production shocks caused by climate and disease affect prices in the producer countries, and how these shocks are transmitted to retailers and consumers.
Influencing corporate behaviour
Alongside our active engagement in the WBF, Banana Link continues to drive forward dialogue with a number of key retailers with tangible changes to sourcing practices being discussed and made.
Groupe Carrefour has changed buying policy and led to a shift to over 30% of their bananas being organic Fairtrade. This move, in turn, has pushed other major French retailers to increase their commitment to Fairtrade. Monoprix, for example, being the first French retailer to announce a move to 100 % Fairtrade.
Dialogue with Tesco on a range of supplier-related issues in Ecuador and Costa Rica and their public commitments made in 2014 to pay prices that cover the Costs of Sustainable Production (COSP) and living wages along dedicated supply chains.
The UK’s biggest fresh produce trader Asda/Walmart have agreed to help leverage change in the Costa Rican banana industry.
Morrisons accepted a proposal from Banana Link and our partners, the Regional Coordination of Banana & Agroindustrial Worker Unions (COLSIBA), to source from small farmers in Ecuador/Peru and work on differentiation messaging for UK consumers.
Sainsburys engaged with Banana Link to bolster their banana Sustainability Standard on gender, collective bargaining and pesticide reduction issues.
Banana Link is working with Waitrose to support progress towards the payment of living wages in the Dominican Republic.
Comparative analysis of progress towards gender equity
Banana Link is coordinating research to compare and analyse work that has delivered improvements in women’s employment and empowerment in the banana, tea and flower trades, to understand the drivers of sustained change and to inform company action. We are delighted that this work has been funded by the ETI Innovations Fund, and we are working with the NGO Women Working Worldwide, the Fairtrade Foundation, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Compagnie Fruitière, Finlays and the IUF to collect case studies and to share subsequent learning.
"The current instability of the labour market wears the face of a woman; it is our responsibility to fight to improve our working conditions to ensure that we are employed with decency and dignity."
Fátima Del Rosario Herrera Olea, trade union activist, SITAG-Peru
"We worked with the NGO, Banana Link, to help shape and inform our approach to the responsible sourcing of Bananas from Africa and Latin America. They helped us to engage with local trade unions in source countries and ensure that social responsibility was a core pillar of our produce sourcing strategy. This supported our move to 100% Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certified Bananas, improving our range in 2017."
Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC, Corporate Responsibility Report 2017/18
Capacity building of partners to educate and organise workers in Africa and Latin America
Union to Union solidarity
Banana Link has secured continued support from the British trade union movement for capacity building projects with union partners in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador.
In Guatemala trade union organising and education work is benefiting 2000 workers in a country sadly renowned for the violent repression of union activists. Costa Rican union SITRAP has raised rights awareness amongst 2000 banana and pineapple workers; recruited 332 new members and increased women’s membership by 150%; secured the reinstatement of 40 sacked workers (through successful legal cases and direct negotiation); educated 339 representatives and workers through workshops; held the first recruitment fair on labour rights for 33 years as part of their organising campaign and improved negotiations with a number of key companies, including Del Monte.
In Ecuador, funding has enabled education and awareness raising among 700 women workers about their rights, collective bargaining and the increasing flexibilisation of employment in the country as well as ensuring the continued improved participation of women in all union activity.
Following a campaign, we launched in April 2016, nine SITETSA union executive committee members sacked by Peruvian agribusiness company TALSA, have won their legal battle against unfair dismissal.
In the video below, we highlight an example of what can be achieved when employers and trade unions work constructively together to provide decent pay, working conditions, housing and medical services for plantation workers.
Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers
Whilst our priority is securing constructive dialogue with retailers and producers in the industry, there are occasions when this fails to ensure corporate efforts to mitigate violations.
In 2016 Banana Link and the IUF submitted a complaint to the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) about the failure of fellow member, Fyffes, to respect the ETI Base Code at Fyffes Honduran melon subsidiary, Suragroh.
More than 41,000 citizens have since lobbied Fyffes, as part of the Freedom and Fairness for Fyffes workers campaign, to respect labour and trade union rights at its subsidiaries, and to introduce a global policy to ensure the respect of workers' rights throughout its supply chains.
Fyffes were suspended from the ETI in May 2017 and given the opportunity to engage with the IUF to create a mutually agreed framework for engagement. At the time of writing they remain suspended.
Banana Link continues to coordinate campaigning activity, as well as advocacy with retailers, to keep pressure on Fyffes owners, Sumitomo and increase company awareness of the ethical expectations of European and US consumers. In March, Dansk Supermarket Group became the first retailer to publicly announce ceasing to buy Fyffes bananas because the progress towards properly respecting workers' rights was too slow.
Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) and ILO Convention 184
Banana Link has been a partner in a two-year campaign to ratify ILO Convention 184 on Safety and Health in Agriculture which has led to several union partners being able to get the ratification onto their national parliamentary agendas, notably in Ecuador, Peru and France. In Central America, the trade union confederations to which the banana workers unions are affiliated are pushing the doors of government to try and achieve the same.
Fourteen national workshops in seven countries of Latin America, involving some 400 workers from local Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) committees, has ensured that OHS issues are now firmly at the heart of trade union agendas with their employers. In July a Honduran workshop provided women workers with the opportunity to learn more about how to address the increasing problem of Carpal tunnel syndrome for packhouse workers.
Advocating for rigorous implementation of certification standards
Banana Link continues to work in close partnership with the Fairtrade movement, through membership of the Workers’ Rights Advisory Committee, Fairtrade International participation in the WBF and European Banana and Agro Industrial Product Action Network (EUROBAN), and with the Fairtrade Foundation (FTF) in the UK.
Rainforest Alliance (RA) certification has become almost ubiquitous in the British market. In the UK, for example, Tesco and ASDA bananas are 100% RA certified – while hard discounters like Aldi and Lidl are committing to a majority of their bananas being RA certified. Banana Link, as part of our Make Fruit Fair campaign, has consistently raised concerns with RA that their critical criteria on freedom to join an independent union are not being implemented on certified farms. These concerns have also been raised directly with RA by our Costa Rican union partners. In May 2017, RA introduced ‘Additional Audit Methods for Freedom of Association’ in response to concerns.
However, union partners continue to report violations. Banana Link coordinated a letter signed by 19 organisations detailing serious concerns about the failure of workers on RA certified plantations to have the freedom to join unions and to collectively bargain. In a subsequent meeting with the new CEO of RA we proposed the outline of a pilot programme to build the capacity of auditors to understand and recognise violations of union rights.
Developing and strengthening networks to work towards sustainability
Rethinking Value Chains network
Banana Link coordinates the Rethinking Value Chains (RGV) network which brings together civil society actors with expertise on value chain issues and the empowerment of workers and local communities in the face of global corporate economic interests. The aim is to provide a space for these diverse organisations to engage in fundamental discussions on the current dominant economic system and ways to work together towards sustainable alternatives that put people and the environment first.
“The Make Fruit Fair! campaign was important in Costa Rica and generated positive changes. It helped us to generate awareness about labour conditions and environmental aspects. It’s very important for us to know we have allies in Europe.”
Eva Carazo, University of Costa Rica
Make Fruit Fair!
The Europe-wide Make Fruit Fair! campaign (MFF) drew to a close in 2018. The campaign brought together twenty-eight organisations from across the world to improve living and working conditions for hundreds of thousands of tropical fruit workers.
The campaign successfully informed consumers in Europe about the human and environmental cost of cheap tropical fruit and encourage them to change their buying habits and threw a spotlight on how supermarkets abuse their market power to force down prices paid to producers to the extent that plantation workers in Costa Rica or Ecuador might work 12 hours a day and still take home less than a living wage.
A combination of consumer action in the European Union and actions by workers and others in Costa Rica, for example, has resulted in better and more permanent employment conditions on plantations targeted by Make Fruit Fair! Research suggests that the use of sub-contracted workers has fallen from 75% of the workforce to close to 25%
While in April this year, the European Commission announced legislation on unfair trading practices in global food supply chains, to protect small and medium-sized food suppliers against the abusive practices of large buyers by prohibiting certain unfair trade practices. The Commission cited the Make Fruit Fair campaign among the factors leading them to make their proposal for legislation.
The European Union praised the campaign as an example of a successful large scale Development Education and Awareness Raising (DEAR) Programme funded project.
Supporting small scale producers
Banana Link works to ensure that the voice of small producers is heard in WBF and EUROBAN. We also facilitate the sharing of learning on agroecology between small producer organisations, such as the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association (WINFA) and FARMCOOP from the Philippines. In recent months we have produced a leaflet aimed at consumers about the benefits of buying fruit from small-scale producers, to be followed by a film capturing testimony fof the environmentally-friendly production methods used by small scale farmers in the Philippines.
Securing Decent Work in tropical fruit export production in Africa
Banana Link visited Cameroon in September to facilitate workshops with union representatives, women leaders and staff members to evaluate the impact of our 2013 to 2016 education and empowerment programme. All reported the continued success of better skilled representatives negotiating effectively with workplace supervisors, including a harmonisation of housing allowances between all plantations and a number of improved health and safety practices.
Representatives also continue to regularly educate workers both when gathered at the beginning of the working day, and in smaller groups. Women activists reported education work to empower women to make choices about when to get pregnant and to better understand their legal rights. Women representatives have negotiated new opportunities for women workers to take on (higher skilled/paid) tasks such as engineering and welding; to stop de-leafing because it causes abdominal pains, irregular menstruation and miscarriage; improved first aid provision in the workplace; and a further reduction in working hours.
The success of this programme was recognised by an ETI blog article, “Now I am bold”: Empowering tropical fruit workers in Africa.
European Banana & Agro-Industrial Action Network (EUROBAN)
Over the last three years Banana Link has strived to strengthen the European Banana & Agro-Industrial Action Network (EUROBAN) and have increased membership by 50%, with organisations from 20 different EU member states participating in network meetings in that period. In the last twelve months the Network has driven forward advocacy on Fyffes and Rainforest Alliance certification and enabled valuable exchange between Philippines and Caribbean small-scale producers to share their experiences of agroecological alternatives to monoculture production.
Our strategic objectives
We aim to achieve tangible changes in the lives of people working in banana and pineapple chains that incorporate:
Fair and ethical trade practices, based on a fair living wage, equitable distribution of value along the chain, and competitive market access for small producers.
Dignity at work and respect for labour and trade union rights.
Sustainable production systems which reduce dependence on hazardous substances and minimise adverse health and environmental impacts on natural resources, workers and communities.
Constructive dialogue between all economic and non‐economic stakeholders that accelerates a transition to fair, equitable and sustainable banana and pineapple chains worldwide.
Gender equity for all.
Priorities for 2018-19
Securing Decent Work
Support efforts to organise and build the capacity for women and men plantation workers and their trade unions to secure their labour rights and living wages through collective bargaining, particularly in countries where there are significant obstacles such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru.
Promote better health and safety practices and education for women and men on plantations through promotion of the Banana Occupational Health and Safety (BOHESI) Training Manual.
Work towards gender equity by reducing the gender pay gap and other negative impacts of unequal power relations on plantations, such as discriminatory hiring and employment practices, sexual harassment and workplace violence.
Promoting agroecological production
Promoting agroecological production methods which reduce or eliminate pesticide use, drawing on the experiences of small scale producers who are pioneering alternative production methods, and capitalising on growing industry acceptance that monoculture production is no longer sustainable, including the promotion of South-South exchanges of learning and experience.
Encourage retailers to source and market bananas from producers that employ agroecological, non-monoculture, production systems, particularly from small scale producers.
Explore funding opportunities for small scale farmer agroecological initiatives, such as the Windward Islands Farmers Association and the Foundation for Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in Mindanao, Philippines.
Influencing industry actors
Play a leading role in the World Banana Forum as the key space for engaging industry actors in multi stakeholder dialogue, the sharing of learning, and collaborative action to bring about positive change. This includes the payment of Living Wages, labour rights, improved health and safety standards and achieving gender equity throughout the banana trade.
Work in close bilateral collaboration with those actors that share our aims of securing labour rights, gender equity and good practice towards sustainability in the industry.
Pressure retailers to pay prices that cover Costs of Sustainable Production and encourage sourcing from small-scale producers on fair terms.
Encourage certifiers to rigorously implement robust standards, in particular, in respect of Freedom of Association and labour rights and the payment of prices that cover Costs of Sustainable Production.
Engagement with selected producer country Governments to promote sustainable production, a fair distribution of value, labour law enforcement and the incorporation of Living Wage criteria into minimum wage setting processes
Promote the mainstreaming of gender equity issues in the industry by ensuring that gender equity is an integral part of each and every industry dialogue agenda.
Continue to work with the UK trade union movement to raise awareness about labour rights and health and safety issues on banana plantations and seek their support for capacity building and empowerment of trade unions on banana plantations.
Facilitate the sharing and exchange of strategies between economic sectors on worker empowerment as a means of creating fairer supply chains, recognising the importance of establishing leadership and learning exchange programmes.
Promote a better understanding of the complexities and impact of gender issue in the workplace.
Raise consumer awareness of the true costs of tropical fruit production and engage them in action to tackle abusive corporate practices.
Encourage teaching in universities and business schools that promotes responsibility in global value chains, and the coordination of civil society research into and action for value chain regulation through the Responsible Global Value Chains network and web platform at http://www.responsibleglobalvaluechains.org/.
Work with our local communities in Norfolk to educate people about global sustainable development and the significance of biodiversity, poverty reduction and a decent life for all.
Banana Link invests considerable resources into raising awareness through analysis, dissemination and publication of information about banana and pineapple production and trade. As the "go‐to authority on what is happening within the banana industry", we are regularly quoted in national, international, trade and local media.
Our website receives around 50,000 page views a month, while our social media channels and online newsletters and bulletins, for both public and specialist audiences, regularly reach an audience of over 10,000. We also share our research and analysis widely amongst organisations and networks working towards fairer trade and sustainable food production.
In addition, we also attend trade union conferences, seminars and training courses to raise awareness among trade unionists of the challenges facing their trade union colleagues in Latin America and Africa.
In 2018 a two-month photographic exhibition celebrating our work was held at the Playhouse Theatre in Norwich, raising awareness among our local community of our work.
Monitoring and evaluation
We consistently use a range of evaluation methods to monitor the impact of our education programmes, project activity and stakeholder dialogue. Over the last year this has included detailed evaluation of the WBF preparatory and Gender Equity Meetings, EUROBAN meetings and workshops in Cameroon.
For example, 86% of delegates to the WBF Gender Equity Meeting rated the event as good or excellent, with 80% satisfied or very satisfied with the final proposals from the thematic workshops on sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and on health and safety.
Meanwhile, 95% of delegates to the meeting of Southern trade union and small producer meeting ahead of the WBF conference said they were a lot more confident about their participation in the programme as a result of the meeting.
We monitor and review all project progress on at least a six-monthly basis.
Income and expenditure 2017-18
This chart is a representation of our expenditure in 2017-18. Please contact us for a detailed breakdown of income and expenditure for this period and a copy of our independently examined accounts.
42-58 St George's Street
Phone: +44 (0)1603 765670
All photos © Banana Link, except Pages 1, 4, 8, 10 and 12 © James Robinson
Key funders in this period include: Bama Gruppen, BBSRC, Edith M. Ellis Trust, Ethical Trading Initiative, European Commission, Evan Cornish Foundation, Fairtrade Foundation, Fondation Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme, Mosse Family Settlement, Open Gate Trust, Oxfam, R.B.Solomons Trust, St Marys Trust, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Trades Union Congress, UIA Mutual and UNISON.