The bananas you find at the co-op come from Equal Exchange. Equal Exchange partners with banana farmer co-ops to source organic Fairtrade bananas at fair prices. AsoGuabo is one of those farmer co-ops and Johnny is a young farmer and AsoGuabo member. Johnny is featured on our new mural on the outside of the Lyndale Ave side of the Wedge.
“My grandfather, Jacinto Gabriel Aquim Ruiz dedicated his life to agriculture, specifically to banana and fruits production. He told me that before agricultura was different, it was harder work because they didn´t have the technology we have now, they had to carry the banana bunches on their shoulders for long distances and they sold them in bunches. When I was a kid, I liked to wake up early and accompany my grandpa Jacinto Aquim to the ports and to walk around the plantations, besides I liked to plant many different fruit plants.
At school I was interested in biology and my teachers made me the chemistry lab´s assistant because I was very responsible. When I was finishing high school, I took the responsibility to have a property of 0.95 hectares that my parents bought for me so I could work and learn more about the field. When I started it was very hard because I didn´t have a place to deliver my boxes and I didn´t have a stable price. I entered AsoGuabo in my last year of high school, but at that time they didn´t have their own infrastructure. Following my grandpa´s advice I also planted fruit trees to have something else to eat, besides bananas. I studied aquaculture engineering at the University. I learned about microorganisms that can be used as probiotics and about organic production and then changed my production to organic. Once I graduated, I started to work on many projects to combine aquaculture with agriculture.
I also saw changes AsoGuabo. I saw many improvements including having our own building, giving food supplies and a Christmas bonus. Additionally, we have school benefits for producers. Now with Edwin Melo as president we have seen other benefits, we have a bio factory, we produce our own fertilizer and recycle plastic, we have medical care, improved packing and fertilizing cycles, and many benefits for members. I feel very happy to have seen the change of AsoGuabo and I am very proud to be part of this association.”
AsoGuabo is a farmer-run co-operative with 350 small-scale banana farmers. Each farmer is committed to improving quality of life for themselves and their communities. In addition to earning a fair price for their bananas, the co-op receives a Fair-Trade social premium that members voted to spend on education, health care, retirement, environmental projects and infrastructure improvements. Additionally, AsoGuabo is giving back to the local and global community by sharing their highly successful cooperative model with other producer groups in Ecuador and throughout the world.