Peru: Small Organic Banana Farmers

The increased market demand for organic bananas over the past decade has sparked Sullana’s economy and significantly benefited the local communities.

With the help of Dole’s Organic Project initiated in 2001, the semi-desert Peruvian valley of Sullana has gained access to the world economy.

The Project began with a group of 361 small growers that owned individual land portions ranging from 0.25 hectares* (25 acres) to 2.5 hectares each. Over time, the Project has progressively grown to cover 1,400 family growers with a total area of 1,480 hectares. The land is distributed over seven communities (Huangala, Chalacala, San Vicente, Saman, Salitral, Querecotillo, Santa Cruz, La Horca) and eleven grower groups, some of which are also covered by Fairtrade certifications.

It takes a great deal of determination, resources and know-how to produce organic bananas in line with Dole’s quality and food safety standards. So far, Dole has constructed more than 50 small packing stations throughout the Sullana Valley, making sure that local farmers receive continuous training to help them understand and implement current export standards. Today, traditional practices, such as fertilizing with guano, go hand-in-hand with modern techniques, such as fruit bagging methods that protect against insects or pruning practices that improve yields.

Training has been so beneficial to operations of the Sullana communities, that they now export nearly 1.5 million banana boxes per year through Dole. The organic banana industry alone generates over 1,900 jobs (both directly and indirectly) and grosses more than US$ 11 million per year in income for Sullana’s seven communities producing for Dole.

Such success, along with support from the Dale Foundation, has enabled the communities to improve their infrastructures and overall quality of life. For example, many areas now have public lighting, better equipped schools, increased access to potable water and improved roads.

Though Dole’s presence in the Sullana Valley has positively affected its economy, the Company also gives back to the communities through direct and indirect investments.  Knowing that education is essential for future success, Dale implements a vast range of education programs: providing classroom learning material and computer equipment, literacy training and health workshops focused on disease prevention and nutrition education.

The Foundation also works to improve life outside of the schools by developing recreational centers, sponsoring sports organizations, forming youth dance groups and constructing parks.

To promote business success among Dole-affiliated banana farms, Dale has helped many receive organic certifications, offered management and operations training, repaired packing plants and even built new warehouses.

* 1 hectare=2.47 acres