Small Scale Banana Farming in Ecuador: Peeling Back the Layers

by Vins

In Ecuador, small-scale banana farmers are struggling to adapt to the supply and demand of international trade. In Ecuador, farmers are seeing the roles of consumers effect the flow of production going through their plantations. In the turn of the 20th century, so-called “banana republics” were very prominent for foreign trade. Fair Trade, a movement in the last decade, has given these small-scale banana farmers “access to lucrative global markets, opportunity to receive fair trade, a continuity of income and decent living and working conditions” (Nagasawa & Varjaques). The challenge of fair trade for El Oro “The Land of Green Gold”, Ecuador is connecting the consumers in the United States and Europe to the fruit itself. The importance of this connection is for consumers to be aware that the fruit is grown by people who are making a living, consuming products that are not Fair Trade organized contributes to worker exploitation, health impacts, and social impacts. Therefore, the movement of Fair Trade has become a positive change for the people of Ecuador, and will only continue to be a positive change if consumers pay attention to labels.

Bananas contribute to improving education systems, and improve the health and wellbeing of families. Jorge Acosta spent 17 years as a pilot fumigating the plantations. Once he began to feel the effects of the chemicals on his own body, he researched further to know exactly what he contributing to. Mancozeb, was the known pesticide that he was fumigating; this pesticide is banned in the Untied states and in Europe due to it being a carcinogen that contributed to health hazards. Acosta no longer is a pilot and now is a worker activist for those who were in similar positions as he was. Jimena Cundolle is a small banana producer who also struggles with the system of production in Ecuador before Fair Trade was introduced.  These are just two stories of how small-scale banana farmers are exploited during the process of farming and selling the bananas. Middlemen traders set prices on banana boxes that fluctuate in price in the low season. This system makes it hard for changes to be made because producers and workers are afraid to protest because of isolation from intermediaries where they get their business. With the movement of Fair Trade, the producers and workers will get a set income for bananas yearly, instead of per box. Supporting Fair Trade bananas helps the people of Ecuador have a better life.

It is difficult for everyday Americans to know the story behind the production of bananas. Big corporations such as Dole and Chiquita are the most popular here in the United States. Americans do not know about the hardship of the banana farmers because it is not in these companies best interest to share their stories. The banana companies changed the development of many Latin American countries. Once the banana companies were gone after making profits from bananas, these countries were left in ruins (Chapman, 2008). “United Fruit defined the modern multinational corporation at its most effective — and, as it turned out, it’s most pernicious” (Chapman, 2008). By purchasing Fair Trade Equal Exchange bananas, we as Americans can make a difference for many Latin American countries. is an American public-benefit corporation, the mission of which is to help bring creative projects to life. Kickstarter helped promote the web documentary about Fair Trade bananas and the people of Ecuador who are creating the movement to change the banana industry. Beyond the Peal is a documentary sharing Jorge Acosta’s, Jimena Cundolle’s and many other’s stories about the banana industry and their personal lives. Big corporations are failing to advertise this story; the project has had to find it’s own outlets to share this story. Public outreach for this project is extremely important; this is why I found it worthwhile to share so others would become aware.


Daniel, Kurtz-Phelan, “Big Fruit”, New York Times, March 2, 2008.

Nagasawa, Katherine & Varjjaques, Leah, “Beyond the Seal: Small Banana Farmers   Fight for Fair Trade Fruit”, Beyond the Seal, December 3, 2015,

Robinson, Phyllis, “A World Difference: Fair Trade in the Banana Industry”, Small Farmers Big Change, March 15, 2015, in-the-banana-industry/.

Student Researcher: Carlina Arango (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)