BioTropic and FairTSA

Community Development

2014 - 2020

   Producers are at the heart of FairTSA Fair Trade certification. Together through community development projects and capacity building we are helping to directly impact the agricultural communities that grow and process our food. 

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   BioTropic SRL is a FairTSA Fair Trade certified producer of bananas in the Dominican Republic. The associated operations are Finca Villa Lobo, Finca Caobanita, and Centro Ecologico are located in Villa Lobo Adentro and Mao-Santiago Rodríguez. Every year, the workers for BioTropic utilize FairTSA’s Community Development program to improve their community’s support and infrastructure. Community members use democratic decision-making to select projects that best serve their immediate and long-term needs. 

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  Pictured below is the founding meeting of the workers’ association and election of worker representatives in 2012 in the context the initial FairTSA certification. Workers discuss the annual Community Development Project, using communal decision-making processes to decide how to best leverage Social Premium funding. These meetings help ensure that the Social Premium funding is used most effectively. Once a proposal is chosen, FairTSA assesses it for conformity with the standard and documents project progression, working in tandem with a network of authorized inspectors and certifiers.   

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    The Dominican Republic is the largest producer of organic bananas in the world. Grown on over 12,000 hectares of land, organic banana exports in 2015 reached 240,000 metric tons ($150 million) and accounted for 55% of the world’s organic banana export. Despite this upward trend, many rural banana producers struggle to access affordable healthcare, quality education, and protection from anti-Haitian racism. Producers also find themselves especially vulnerable to adverse weather conditions such as flooding and winds from tropical storms. In recent years, storms Erika and Irma ̶ caused severe damage to banana trees, yields, and producer self-sufficiency. Recent FairTSA development projects have focused primarily on mitigating storm damage in the construction of irrigation systems and the development of emergency funds that help producers survive during periods of tree regrowth.

2019-2020: Schooling, Medical aid, Food distribution, & Holiday celebrations

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   The past few years have had similar goals. BioTropic been organizing around its community’s needs, running similar projects to support their farmers. For 2020 and 2019 the activities included Easter and Christmas celebration meals with food and sweets distributed. Deliveries of school supplies to the worker’s children was also carried out for the new school year. There are delivery of medicine prescriptions to people who had health complications during 2019, as well as personal loans made available to workers without any interest. Official worker cards are organized and provided for the foreign workers. Finally there is an annual celebration day for the of the workers with a trip to the beach. 

2018: Rebuilding after Tropical Storms 

   During 2018, the Dominican Republic was still recovering from a difficult storm season the    previous year. To that end, the majority of the CDP project for this year consisted of supporting the rebuilding efforts of farmer’s homes and church. In addition, loans were still available interest free to the farmers, school supplies were distributed to children, and there was a Christmas celebration with food and sweet’s distributed.  

2017: Natural Disaster Relief 

   In 2017, a series of tropical storms severely damaged crops and infrastructure, forcing Finca de la Lobo to split into two separate villages, Villa Lobo Adentro and Carretera Mao-Santiago Rodríguez. Following this disaster, producers have divided premium funds between the two villages, with post hurricane projects supporting producer morale and survival as they rebuild their community. Projects included a worker compensation fund to alleviate wages lost to flooded crops. Replanting of banana trees was a big effort, as well as the installation of improved irrigation system in defense of future natural disasters. There was also the planning of a community event and an inter-village soccer league to help boost morale. Jerseys and gear were purchased. 

   Additionally, repairs to farmer housing and church infrastructure was carried out after the storm damage. There was also an installation of a water tank at the village school this year. Below, the producer soccer team, established in the wake of crop-destroying floods, tours the island and competes against nearby villages and co-ops. 

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2016: Passports for Haitian Workers 

   For this year, the Community Development Project focused on acquiring passports and work permits for Haitian-Dominican farmers at Finca Villa Lobo. The project included transportation to and from an immigration office to have documents examined and approved, travel to Haiti to retrieve identification documents, as well as general support throughout complicated bureaucratic process. 

2014-2015: Worker Housing & Sanitary Facilities 

   For their first project, BioTropic rehabilitated worker housing and sanitation facilities which were in much need of repair. This was negatively affecting the health and welfare of Finca Villa Lobo residents in the small village where most of the workers reside. It was also agreed on that they will use funds to support a visa application program, which will help protected the community’s Haitian-Dominican population from deportation 

   For the second year of BioTropic’s FairTSA CDP project, it was decided to construct fifteen new lavatories and sanitation facilities at Finca Villa Lobo. 

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