Dominican banana farmer, crafter and beekeeper, Maria Genao, will visit schools, community centres and businesses in Londonderry this week to tell local pupils and citizens why co-operative producers’ organisations lend to a more just way of doing business.
Ms Genao will be in the city this Friday, March 4, as a guest of Foyle Fairtrade who are holding their annual Fairtrade Fortnight until March 10.
Prior to becoming a banana farmer, Maria Genao lived in the United States where she worked most of her life as a medical assistant.
It was during that time that she realised that working with people and helping the ones in need was one of her greatest passions.
She returned to Dominican Republic where her Father was a banana farmer and member of the Banelino Cooperative since its inception.
The Banelino Cooperative is an association of small producers in northern Dominican Republic that exports organic bananas certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO).
Maria’s father spoke highly of the Banelino Cooperative. As she learnt herself about the Coop’s work, she knew that being part of Banelino was a right choice for her when she decided to follow in her father’s steps and continue working on the farm in 2010.
Now, Maria and her brother have four permanent employees who are all working one day a week on their 54 acres of banana farm.
In addition to being a producer in Banelino, Maria is also a secretary of the board of directors, president of the Banelino affiliate handcraft group GAMUB and also president of the apiarian group (MIELINO).
“The main goal of GAMUB is to integrate women and youth, so they feel even more part of the association by becoming aware of our community’s tight relationship with the bananas, and so they can be creative while earning a bit of money.
“We hope to grow and open a small store in the nearby tourist beach town of Monte Cristi soon. But the long term plan is to export our baskets to Fairtrade markets abroad.
“This idea came up thanks to a workshop provided by Banelino out here, financed by Fairtrade premium money, where a local woman taught many of us this particular local skill that was about to become extinct. So we are proudly keeping it alive as it is part of our heritage”. Ms Genao added: “The impact that Fairtrade has in the lives of the small producers are many, it ensures our work as producers by protecting the market throughout the year, by helping us in many ways to keep growing and by being there through tough times when we are in need”.
“For all these and many other reasons I’m proud to be part of Banelino and to had been certified as Fairtrade member”.
For details of the full Fairtrade Fortnight programme visit: https://www.facebook.com/foylefairtradecampaign/