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Ecuador: Fair-trade and organic banana production by smallholders

General information
Project location: El Oro province, Ecuador
Consortium: AgroFair Europe BV, OKEGUABO Cia Ltda, Asociación de Pequeños Productores Bananeros "El Guabo", Stichting AgroFair Assistance & Development
Project Budget: Euro 1.5 million
External financing: 50% grant funding by PSOM
Project period: July 2008 - June 2012

AgroFair from the Netherlands imports and distributes fair-trade fruit, sourced from producers who are represented in its shareholding and benefit from an additional fair-trade premium. Smallholder producers association Asoguabo from Ecuador is AgroFair’s principal supplier of fair-trade and organic bananas.

In order to remain competitive and strengthen their position towards the future, the performance of Asoguabo and its smallholders must be raised considerably. The way forward is the introduction of Precision Agriculture (a.k.a. Site-Specific Farming), an information and technology based management system now possible because of new technologies have become available to agriculture. These include global positioning systems, geographic information systems, yield monitoring devices, soil, plant and pest sensors, remote sensing, and variable rate technologies for application of inputs. This information and technology for site-specific farming allows farmers to identify, analyze, and manage the spatial and temporal variability of soil and plants for optimum profitability, sustainability, and protection of the environment.

The project introduces Precision Agriculture to the smallholder banana producers of Asoguabo by way of an advanced information technology (IT) system that yields information necessary to be able to optimize banana cultivation activities at individual farm level, detect production problems such as diseases earlier, control and improve the production chain, timely and accurately forecast exportable volume so that AgroFair can make its sales plan and marketing effort accordingly.

A unique communal plantation is established where precision agriculture technology is applied in a new system of banana cultivation, in which harvesting is precisely programmed to take advantage of better prices during the period of high demand by the European market. The communal farm, owned by a cooperative of smallholders set up for this purpose, is certified for fair-trade and organic production.

Precision aerial spraying services with GPS and an intelligent valve system are set up to support the smallholders of Asoguabo, who were excluded from such services that previously were available only to farmers having more than 30 ha.

The project creates new employment for 64 persons. Training is provided to the communal farm workers, quality inspectors and Asoguabo staff in Precision Agriculture techniques and practices, application of the advanced IT system and quality control.

AgroFair is consolidating its partnership with Asoguabo through equal participation in OKEGUABO Ltda, a company through which they jointly invest.

Follow-up investments comprise the establishment of new central offices and central warehouses and the set-up of a farm infrastructure department at Asoguabo, the establishment of a credit fund for smallholder farm investments by members of Asoguabo and the extension of the communal farm from 60 ha to 100 ha.

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