January 28th 2021 ・ 5 min reading
At Chiquita, we know our delicious, top quality bananas don’t grow themselves – we have an amazing team of people that are devoted to ensuring our cute yellow fruit get to your store in the best condition possible. And they all live within larger communities, so as a key part of our commitment to sustainability we work hard to make sure that these communities also share in the benefits of our work. Let’s have a look at some of the initiatives we’ve pioneered!
We know that we’re only as strong as our foundation – and that is happy, healthy Chiquita communities and a distinctively sustainable approach to our work. To help further our vision, we have put in place an education benefits program for the children of our farm workers.
We provide school packages in Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, containing many of the basic materials needed by the countries’ education ministries. In addition, we offer scholarships in Panama, where we also support the Integral Care Center for Early Childhood in Theobroma community, to provide vulnerable infants with a secure space for their development and growth.
We passionately believe that helping children to receive their all-important primary education has a positive and long-lasting impact not only on the child but also their communities, which is not only good for these societies but also the quality of work that we depend on. We’ve achieved our goal of reaching 20,000 children by 2020, starting on our own farms and moving to areas where we buy bananas from independent producers. Our aim is to ensure that all children in our banana-producing areas have the opportunity to have a good primary education.
We also invite children living near our farms to receive visual and dental care, health education and free teeth cleaning kits – these initiatives are particularly important in areas where levels of education have been historically low and where access to diagnostic facilities like this has been limited due to the costs and distances involved.
Our employees also have the chance to give a day’s paid work to support construction and renovation of schools, and/or to help with teaching. Below, we’ll look in more detail at some of the initiatives the company has been involved in.
We have donated a preschool classroom for 34 children of Farm 64 in the province of Bocas del Toro, Panama, through the Ministry of Education’s ‘My School First’ program. The classroom also has a separate bathroom and cleaning area.
Our school donations and work are part of our second pillar of sustainability, ‘Being A Good Neighbor’, which underlines our commitment and responsibility to nourish a positive and long-term impact for the communities where we operate by investing in social projects for children and education.
The Farm 64 education center is in a rural area of the same name where we have operations in three different farms. All of the 210 children at this school are children of Chiquita workers. The new facilities have been donated to the state, and Chiquita is continuing to support the ‘My School First’ program by investing in school infrastructure.
In another area of Bocas del Toro, Barranco Medio, we’ve donated a lunchroom for the 330 students of the local school. The Barranco Medio educational center, in the area of the same name, is close to Las Tablas where we have operations in four farms, so 75% of the student population are children of our workers. This new school cafeteria is also part of the ‘My School First’ program and ensures that the children have a safe and attractive place to eat healthy meals.
Another project that we sponsored as part of our second pillar of sustainability has involved us providing improvements to a school in Campo Birichiche community, in El Progreso, Honduras. The community is near Chiquita’s Ameribi farm and almost half of the school’s 150 children have parents who work there. Works included painting, repairs to the sanitation, replacing roofs and the stage floor, and providing a staircase to the second floor as well as a secure perimeter fence.
To promote sports, we also invested in providing two football goals and mowing and marking the field. The 1950s-built school was in very poor condition: now, the children have a safe and welcoming space in which to learn, and the school has become very popular as a result.
This March 2018 we took the next step in our long sustainability journey, by donating the lands of all the schools of Sarapiquí to the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. These schools educate around 400 pupils and are all sited in areas where our workers live. The donation will enable the Ministry of Education to invest in the school infrastructure. We were concerned about the education of our workers’ children from the very start of our banana production in Sarapiquí, back in 1993. For this reason, we built up the schools and then made the decision to donate them in 2018.
And so, our work goes on, supporting the fantastic teams that bring you the tastiest bananas in the world. Next time you pop some in your shopping, you’ll know you’re helping a truly important sustainability success story.
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