Rainforest Alliance Certified Bananas
Jasmina Lira, a farmworker raising three children on her own, changed the course of her family’s life when she secured a job at Finca Santa Marta, a Rainforest Alliance Certified™ banana farm in Limón, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Lira represents the new face of the sustainable banana labor force. She is at the forefront of a revolution in a $5 billion global industry once synonymous with worker abuse, rampant deforestation and the ruin of streams, rivers and coral reefs. In the 1990s, the Rainforest Alliance began working with local NGO partners, scientists, community leaders and farmers to transform the destructive industry by establishing the first standard for responsible banana production.
Supporting Farmers and Communities
The Rainforest Alliance works with banana farms to help them conserve their natural resources and promote the well-being of workers and local communities. Banana farms that are Rainforest Alliance Certified undergo annual audits to ensure that they comply with rigorous social criteria designed to protect workers, families and nearby communities. For example, while Rainforest Alliance certification requires the phasing out of dangerous pesticides, farms must provide extensive safety training, protective gear, and washing stations to workers handling agrochemicals while they are in use to prevent workers—and their families and communities— from being exposed. Like other certified farms, Finca Santa Marta in Costa Rica provides healthcare and subsidized transportation for employees.
Protecting Land and Waterways
The banana industry was once infamous for clear-cutting rainforests, polluting waterways and using dangerous agrochemicals that workers carried on their backs. Pesticide-impregnated plastic bags, which farms use to protect bananas as they grow, littered riverbanks and beaches near banana farms, while agrochemical runoff and erosion clogged rivers, choked the region's stunning coral reefs and killed marine life.
Today, Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms are forging a path to a better future. They recycle plastic bags and other waste; restore and protect land around their banana trees; plant vegetation along waterways to create buffer zones and reduce erosion; eliminate the most dangerous agrochemicals and tightly control the application of those they do use; reduce water consumption; and install filtration systems to treat water used in processing. An independent study of banana farms in Ecuador showed that Rainforest Alliance Certified farms perform significantly better than non-certified farms in responsible land-management.
The Rainforest Alliance provides banana farms with the tools to cultivate their crops more efficiently. By conserving water, composting and decreasing their use of agrochemicals, farmers not only safeguard the health of their land—they save money. We also help them negotiate better prices and manage their farms more efficiently, which helps them boost the bottom line. And by paying decent wages—and treating their employees with respect and dignity—certified farms decrease turnover and maintain a productive, efficient workforce. Lira, for example, is committed to Finca Marta because can support herself and her children with a good salary and full social benefits. This virtuous cycle is supported by the growth in demand for certified bananas by large companies such as Chiquita and Favorita.