Bananeras de Uraba S.A.

CRZC - the Premium Committee of the the Fairtrade certified cooperative Bananeras de Uraba S.A. – are taking it upon themselves to ensure proper management of the premium.

Details

Country: Colombia

Founded: 1962

Fairtrade certified in: 2005

Main products: Bananas

Number of members: 456 workers

Website: http://www.crzc.co/sitio/

A Commitment to Workers and Community in Colombia

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The Ramos family stands in front of their home.
Image © Rogier Fokke

You can do a lot with $8 million. But ensuring that it transforms the lives of hundreds of people is a much more complicated task that requires dedication, commitment and effort. Which is why the members of the Rosalba Zapata Cardona Corporation (CRZC for its initials in Spanish) take their role so seriously.

The CRZC is responsible for managing investment of the Fairtrade Premium from the sale of bananas at the Urabá Banana plantation in Colombia. It was created in 2008 so that workers at the plantation could manage the investment independently to address their needs. Since then, the CRZC has successfully used the 8 million to respond to problems that the community faces. One of the biggest challenges the CRZC identified was the lack of housing or inadequate housing.

"Most workers were living in precarious conditions, many in overcrowded buildings, others sharing the home of a relative, others pay rent," said Alexander Burgos, President of the CRZC. The decision to intervene in this area was made at the first Assembly of worker members. Unanimously, they elected to dedicate 70 percent of the Premium to development projects.

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John Alexander, who has worked for Bananas Uraba for 10 years, recently completed an education degree.
Image © Rogier Fokke

A credit program they launched helped 186 families become home owners. Loans for home construction on land and home improvements were also awarded. In total, the project amounted to 408 housing solutions, reaching 83 percent of the population.

The second major challenge for workers and their families was a lack of training opportunities. The CRZC regularly awards scholarships to workers and their families so that they can carry out technical, technological, undergraduate, specialization and master programs in different fields. From 2012 to 2014, over a thousand people benefited through more than 765 million pesos (about $ 300,000) investment. Of the 447 workers in Banana Urabá, 95 have graduated from college and 164 are currently studying.

Investment in housing and education has transformed the lives of many workers and opened up new horizons. John Alexander Palacios (30), a 10-year employee of Banana Urabá, is an example of this transformation.

"I’ve been living here with my wife and two children in my house now for a year. I studied pedagogy and I'm majoring in education. I hope to move on from the plantation next year and start working in my field of study,” explained John. “I have even received a job offer already. Fairtrade for me has been like stepping into the to the promised land. I always wanted to be a professional and Fairtrade gave me a chance."

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Workers at one of Bananas de Urabá plantations meet to discuss their Fairtrade Premium investments.
Image © Rogier Fokke

The CRZC’s ambition is to expand the impact achieved through more investment in housing and education.

"We want to continue our development through strategic partnerships with entities such as compensation funds and municipalities that benefit workers and their families,” Alexander Burgos said.

“The ultimate goal with the housing projects is to ensure that all have workers have a home and those who already have one, that they can improve their conditions."

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This apartment project, built using Fairtrade Premium funds, created dignified living spaces for 397 workers and their families.
Image © Rogier Fokke

Representatives of the Corporation and the workers' committee hold meetings on the plantation’s farms almost every week to inform all employees about progress in the projects and gather their opinions and ideas. With the dedication and participation of all, it is expected that the CRZC can continue making dreams come true for hundreds of banana workers and their families in the future.

The CRZC received the Fairtrade Award for the best Fairtrade Premium Committee in Latin America in 2014. You can also find the workers of CRZC on Twitter.

This story was first added to our website on 29 May 2015.