Fruitful meeting for Fair Trade banana activists
29. 3. 2011:
It’s not every day that you can sit at a table with a Honduran banana plantation worker, a British trade unionist and a Czech fair trade activist. For the EUROBAN network*however, this is a regular occurrence. In fact, it’s precisely this set-up that makes their work so unique and effective in bringing fundamental changes to the banana trade over the past 15 years.
“EUROBAN is the only forum where small producers like ourselves, workers’ unions in Latin America, and the European Fairtrade consumer and development organizations can all work together”, explains Renwick Rose, Coordinator and CEO of the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA). “It brings that all-around perspective, which is then brought to bear when we develop positions”.
EUROBAN is a network of organizations working toward one common goal: achieving fair working and environmental conditions for farmers and workers in tropical fruit supply chains. It was formed in 1994, in response to the problem farmers were facing following changes to EU banana tariffs and quotas.
The network has been active in campaign and advocacy work organising international conferences with companies and governments and carrying out campaigns for social and environmental improvements in the banana industry. In addition, the first Fairtrade standards for bananas were developed within the framework of EUROBAN.
Given the rich history between Fairtrade and EUROBAN, we were pleased to host and attend EUROBAN’s bi-annual meeting from 22 to 23 March. Fifteen representatives from around the world travelled to Bonn, including Renwick Rose of WINFA and Iris Munguia of COLSIBA, a coalition of trade unions from Central and South America.
Fairtrade International’s work on improving on workers’ rights was one of the main agenda points at the meeting. Many Fairtrade bananas are grown on plantations and EUROBAN members have advocated that FLO take more action to address workers’ rights. It was encouraging to receive approval for FLO efforts so far from EUROBAN’s members.
“It really feels like FLO is taking action and things are moving in a good direction,” said Liz Parker, chair of EUROBAN.
Iris Munguia added that “there seems to be a political will to do the work at FLO and a willingness to address the issues.”
Participants also took stock of their current joint campaign to “Make Fruit Fair”. Launched last December and funded by the European Commission, the campaign encourages consumers to lobby supermarkets, fruit companies and governments for fair and sustainable banana and pineapple supply chains. Learn how you can get involved in the Make Fruit Fair Campaign at www.makefruitfair.org
“It was a fruitful meeting, in the true sense of the word,” said Alistair Smith, founder of Banana Link and one of the founding members of EUROBAN. “We see Fairtrade as the most important lever towards trade justice in the banana industry. It is a model of how trade can be different which can influence the whole industry. “
*Formally the European Banana Action Network, EUROBAN formally changed its name to the European Banana and Agroindustrial Products Action Network in 2009, but keeping the EURBAN acronym. The new name reflects the extension of their work into other tropical fruit industries.