16 April, 2020

Banana corporations join efforts to install a COVID-19 diagnostic center in Uraba, Colombia


Sixteen Fair Trade corporations, banana producers in Colombia, have joined forces to install a coronavirus diagnostic center (COVID-19) in the Uraba region, where around 700 thousand people live in 11 municipalities in which the main economic activity is banana production.

Currently, the results of tests carried out on people suspected of having COVID-19 in Uraba take up to 4 or 5 days to reach the patients because the samples are sent to laboratories in Medellin, a city that is 500 kilometers away. Since air transportation has been suspended throughout the country, it takes around 8 hours for samples to get from Uraba to Medellin by land transport.

“This initiative is very important because having the results of the tests faster can help us detect cases in the region faster, helping us to limit the virus from spreading, so people can be confined and protected”, explained Carlos Trujillo, plantation manager of Grupo Agrosiete linked to Corporación Sin Límite.

The 16 Fairtrade corporations that export bananas through the C.I. Uniban contributed 55,000 dollars from the Fairtrade Premium funds, which represents 27 percent of the total cost of the project, estimated at 205,000 dollars.

The region´s University State Business Companies Committee is promoting the initiative to establish the diagnostic center for COVID-19 in Uraba. The Committee is formed by more than 200 institutions, including Fairtrade certified banana corporations, the diocese de Apartado, the 11 municipalities, the Colombian Institute of Tropical Medicine and the CES University. To date, the Committee continues to collect funds for the project, which they hope can be installed in the coming weeks.

The Fairtrade organizations that are participating in the project are FUNTRAJUSTO and their associates Corfatra-Visión Futuro, Corporación Grupo Montesol, Corporación Luna Nueva, Corporación Nueva Ilusión, Corporación Nuevo Progreso, Corporación Plantación Adentro y Corporación Ramiro Jaramillo Sosa; Corporación Corpoocho; Corporación Banaexport; Corporación Corpoisys; Corporación Dioselina y Miraflores; Corporación Euro Frontera; Corporación Rosalba Zapata Cardona; Corporación Siempre Amigos; Corporación Bananera Génesis and Corporación Sin Límite.

Trujillo informs that besides supporting the diagnostic center initiative, banana trading companies have also funded equipment for intensive care units and the purchase of respirators for medical institutions in the Uraba region. Also, the banana corporations have donated banana, pineapple and food supplies to people who have no income in the past weeks.

Banana corporations have taken preventive measures to protect workers, such as wearing masks, stopping production to carry out handwashing every two hours, measuring personnel temperatures, keeping personnel at a distance of 2 meters, providing transportation from houses to the farm with the proper separation, set staggered schedules for the use of the dining room to avoid crowds, as well as delivering soap, antibacterial gel and hygiene implements to the staff.

“Our staff is very important and all the measures we can take to protect them are very important” said Trujillo, pointing out that Fairtrade certification has helped plantation workers to be better prepared to face this crisis.

“By being certified, our workers have been more conscious, because they have received more training, so they are more prepared and have more information to face this challenge”, stated Trujillo, whose corporation has been certified since 2007. “Not only the workers, but also their families, because through Fairtrade we have carried out a series of training greater than those normally carried out by companies and even more binding on the family nucleus.”