All in a Day's Work: Protecting Bananas for Export

By Brooke Edwards

September 1, 2011

Watch these videos. This is Wilson Sanchez, and he's showing us some of the work he must do to every banana plant intended for export from his agroecological banana farm in rural Ecuador.

The big green bag is used to protect the bananas from birds and insects. These particular bags are called "bio bags," and they're made by only one company. Unlike the bags used by conventional banana plantations, these bio bags do not contain chemical pesticides. The smaller bits are called "diapers," and they're used to protect the growing bananas from each other. Sanchez and other farmers use each bag and each diaper twice. At the end of the season, they hire a truck to pick up the used bags to take to the recycling plant. The bio bags cost $7 for a box of 100; I didn't catch the cost of the diapers. That's not including the labor of doing this over and over again.

Thankfully, Sanchez belongs to El Guabo, an association to protect small banana producers. It is through El Guabo that Sanchez is a Heifer project participant. I'll tell you more about El Guabo later, but a significant benefit of belonging to the association is health coverage. You know, in case Sanchez falls off his ladder and breaks a leg. That's not a luxury afforded a typical commercial banana plantation worker.

Why the added cost and so much trouble? Sanchez put it plainly: "Europeans eat with their eyes." (Don't think we're any better in the United States.)