Tag Archives: Producer Profile

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5 Questions about Juliana’s Bananas

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Ruth Walton is a British author and illustrator of educational books for primary children. She has written and illustrated seven books including the Let’s Find Out series. Through quirky illustrations and lively text, these books help children to find out about the world around them and beyond. She is particularly interested in helping children to learn about ethical issues in food and manufacturing.

Today, in honour of International Children’s Book Day, we’ve got the spotlight on Ruth Walton’s most recent book, Juliana’s Bananas (New Internationalist, 2014), a superb resource which introduces us to the people who grow our bananas and helps children understand the challenges of getting this delicious fruit to your local grocery store. Ruth agreed to answer our…

5 Questions about Juliana’s Bananas:

1. How did you get interested in bananas?

I’ve always loved eating bananas but had never even seen one growing so I decided to go on a fact finding adventure! After learning more about the banana industry I decided to make a book which helps children understand how eating Fairtrade bananas can help families in other parts of the world.

2. Tell us about the producers you met. Is there a real life Juliana? What was her biggest challenge?

I was lucky enough to visit St Vincent, St Lucia, and Dominica in the Windward Islands, where I met lots of farmers. The real life Juliana who inspired the story works very hard every day to keep her fruit healthy, but her livelihood is always under threat as it is very hard for individual farms and small producers to meet the strict standards set by supermarkets and consumers. Hurricanes and plant diseases also cause terrible problems for the farmers over there.

3. Your story includes Juliana’s children, Bertha and Billy. What’s their life like? What impact do you think the Fairtrade system has on children?

On my travels I saw many great projects which had been funded by Fairtrade social premium money, including school buses, football fields, basketball courts, science equipment and computer rooms for schools. Buying Fairtrade helps to fund facilities which improve the lives of children and whole communities in lots of different ways.

4. Can you describe the collage technique you use so beautifully in the book?

I did the illustrations in Juliana’s Bananas using a mixture of techniques. I make hand-cut collages using painted paper and then scan them in to the computer and layer them up using parts of photographs. I add finer details with a calligraphic pen.

5. What’s your favourite banana treat?

Banana fritters are delicious! You can find them on page 25 of Juliana’s Bananas, but in case you can’t wait until you’ve got a copy, here is the recipe…

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We are Fruit People

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Bananas are fun. There is an endless stream of jokes and songs and stories related to bananas, and trust us, we’ve heard ‘em all. Some are clean, some are lewd, some are quite aPEELing! (groan…) Sometimes, all we have to do is identify ourselves as “the banana ladies” and people start laughing. And just that is worth getting up for in the morning!

But there’s more than just the humour that keeps us working at Equifruit. We love the fruit, but we’re especially keen on fruit people. Fair trade is all about making sure that the people at the first stop on our supply chain are treated well: that they’re paid fairly, that they work in safe conditions, and that their children don’t labour next to them but go to school. We work directly with cooperatives of small producers, and our job is to represent them here in Canada, to tell their stories and sell their fruit. For every container we import, we get a packing list which details the producers who have contributed to this container. This is in part for traceability – but it also reminds us that there are real people behind this fruit we consume, real people with real lives and families, with their problems and joys, just like us.

So… let’s meet one of our producers. The man on our blog graphic is Victor Marquez, a small producer member of our Ecuadorian partners, El Guabo. He and two of his cousins work 5 hectares of land near Santa Rosa (El Oro, in southern Ecuador) which Victor inherited from his father. He’s 45 now – he’s been doing this since he was 15, and before the notion that Fairtrade was possible in their community. They have a team of workers who help them on packing days: up to five more pairs of hands are needed to get fruit cut and packed and loaded to El Guabo’s central departure point.

Victor is married with 3 children, two boys aged 6 and 13, and an 18-year-old daughter who’s the real story. Let’s rewind to 1997, around the time of her birth: El Guabo is first formed as a cooperative to sell bananas to the export market through the Fairtrade system. Victor’s daughter is now studying at the Metropolitan University in Machala, an opportunity which would have been unthinkable for her own parents, thanks in part to the fair trade system’s ban on child labour and emphasis on supporting education.  Fair trade has changed this family.

At almost every event where people talk about or promote fair trade, there’s some brave soul walking around in a banana costume making people laugh. People love the banana costume – but sometimes we’re asked: “Why are we dressing up as bananas?”

Our answer? Because behind every banana we eat, there’s a person working hard, seeking better opportunities for their kids and their communities. From Victor’s family farm to our family’s table, we know where our fruit comes from and the impact that eating the humble banana has on a community half way round the world. Now that’s Fruit for Thought! We look forward to introducing you to more of these people. And in the meantime… let’s have a little fun!

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