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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Transformations Within the Banana Industry to Protect Environmental and Worker Health

Alexandra zum Felde, Alexander R. Mendoza Luna

University of Bonn, Institute for Plant Disease, Soil Ecosystem Phytopathology and Nematology, Germany


The banana is the most popular tropical fruit in the world, and six of the world's top ten banana exporting nations are located in Latin America. Latin American and Caribbean exports accounts for close to 69% of world banana trade. Of the average 24 million metric tonnes of bananas produced yearly in Latin America and the Caribbean, 13 million metric tonnes are consumed locally. These fruits are usually produced on small plantations, while most bananas produced on the large plantations, generally run by the multinational companies, are destined for the export market.
Irrespective of the size of the production area, increasing awareness of the environmental and health impacts of banana production has affected plantation management. Improvements have been encouraged by international certification programs such as ISO. We have looked at the transformations that have taken place in banana plantations since the introduction of these certification programs. Specifically, we have concentrated on their impact on the environment in and around large banana plantations in Central America, as well as the effects this certification process has had on worker health and social conditions.
Positive changes are evident in waste management, which has improved with the creation of compost sites and the recycling of non-organic wastes off-farm. The incidence of pesticide handling accidents and worker intoxication have decreased in certain certified farms with the designation of special pesticide storage and preparation areas and changes in pesticide handling techniques, partially supported by agro-chemical producers. Farm work during pesticide applications is suspended to additionally protect workers from dangerous contact with pesticides. Worker training in first aid and pesticide handling has had positive impacts on the acceptance and awareness of the advantages of using protective equipment while handling pesticides and contaminated material, both on the farm and in packing plants.
Unfortunately, these positive developments cannot be observed in all banana plantations nor throughout the banana production regions, therefor further improvements are needed to transform the banana industry into a genuine sustainable operation.

Keywords: Certification, pesticide handling, safety, waste management, worker training

Contact Address: Alexandra zum Felde, University of Bonn, Institute for Plant Disease, Soil Ecosystem Phytopathology and Nematology, Nussallee 9, 53115 Bonn, Germany, e-mail: zumfelde@uni-bonn.de

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