After visiting the Dole banana plantation today, it is clear that sustainability in the coffee and banana supply chains is not the same. For example, while Dole reuses the plastic that covers the bananas, the coffee plantations we’ve visited have focused more on making use of unnecessary materials (such as the coffee pulp or parchment) or recycling packaging. One area they do have in common, though, is that both the coffee and banana industries want to reduce their use of pesticides, and corporations in both have been recognized for their sustainability practices.
In addition to the environment, Dole also makes an effort to protect their workers and the communities around them. According to their website, a “management team reviews working conditions on a regular basis,” and “workers receive extensive training on safely applying crop protection products.” Additionally, Dole follows all of the International Labor Organization’s Conventions and is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Not only does Dole provide steady jobs for people in local communities, but they do so in a manner that is beneficial for their employees, too.
The part I found most fascinating about our trip, however, was learning how the farmers deal with potential obstacles. Something we did not have to do on any of our coffee visits was wash our shoes off and then step in a shallow pool of iodine. At Dole, this was done to prevent any harmful diseases from entering the plantation. Two other precautions the farmers at Dole implemented were a drainage system and an overhead cable system. The drainage system ensures that the plants do not get too much water, which would allow bacteria and fungus to grow. And, the overhead system is used to prevent the plants from blowing over when there are strong winds.
Considering everything we saw at the coffee and banana plantations we visited, I think I would prefer to work on a banana plantation. My main reason is that, similar to most jobs in the U.S., my pay would be based on how many hours I worked. This is different from the coffee industry, in which workers are usually paid by how many cajuelas, or baskets, of coffee cherries they can pick in a day. Additionally, although the work might be more tiring at a banana plantation, I think I would prefer it to having to individually pick coffee cherries over and over each day.