Jonathan's visit to El Guabo - P1: The Cooperativa
The tallest man in Ecuador reports back from where your bananas are grown. At All Good we don't just slap a Fairtrade sticker on our bananas, we make a point of going out to see our growers in El Guabo and bringing their stories back to you. This year it was Jonathan our operations manager who got to take the trip of a lifetime - after spending so much time making sure our bananas got safely from Ecuador to NZ he deserved to see the other side of the operation!
July 1st 2014
El Guabo is both a township of 8,000 people in the middle of Banana Plantations (photo one above), and the name of the Cooperative that we get our bananas from. In the top left hand side of photo one, right in the distance is the City of Machala, 300,000 people, 60km away with nothing but banana plantations all the way along in all directions. Machala is where our bananas are brought together, palletised and loaded into containers. The hill I am standing on to take this picture is the start of the hills where a lot of our growers are.
Minimum wage in El Guabo and Machala is $300 US per month, and the average income is around the same amount, i.e. 80% of people live on the minimum wage (or lower).
The El Guabo Co-op consists of 28 employees who work either at HQ in El Guabo in an old apartment building, at the Packing and Distribution Warehouse in Machala, or at the Port - either in Machala at Porto Bolivar or in Porto Guayquil, which is a two-three hour drive north but much larger.
Marcello and Vanessa are, I would say, the most important people at the Co-op. Marcello is the Export Manager, and is the guy that works around the clock when everyone else leaves at 5:00 pm - the unsung hero of the story. He is a great point of contact for us in NZ as everything always ends up on his desk eventually. Vanessa probably has the most rewarding and exciting job at El Guabo, she is responsible for delivering and paying the social/community projects and funding - everyone in the town knows who she is and what she does and the kids at the schools love her.
El Guabo and Machala's economy is 90%+ about bananas - the square thumbnail photo on our News page is a statue of a banana grower at the main roundabout heading into Machala.