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Workers in the banana cultivation, the most exported fresh fruit in the world, both by volume and by economic value - can now count on a practical guide aimed at making their work conditions healthier and safer.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Ecuador on Wednesday presented the manual at the Third Conference of the World Banana Forum in Geneva. The banana sector serves as an essential source of employment and income for thousands of rural households in developing countries and the manual, while initially aimed at workers in Ecuador, can be adapted for use around the world, FAO said in press release.
The publication contains a series of recommendations addressed to trainers and workers in the sector on how to manage risks on banana farms and how to carry out work more safely.
It includes a wide range of guidelines covering topics including the proper handling, storage and use of agrochemicals and pesticides, measures for adequate personal protection - including first aid in emergency situations - hygiene standards, information on ergonomic risks, ways to stop gender-related violence and other human rights abuses, the press release added.
"This handbook is a great step forward in defense of workers' rights. This pioneer initiative should be replicated in other banana producing countries," said Ecuador’s Minister of Labour, Raúl Clemente Ledesma Huerta, speaking at the conference in Geneva, which brought together over 300 representatives from the banana sector and other stakeholders, including retailers, importers, producers, exporters, consumer associations, governments, academic institutions, United Nations agencies, trade unions and civil society organisations.
Social, environmental and health risks
Bananas, after cereals, sugar, coffee and cocoa, is the most traded agricultural product in the world, and attempts to lower production costs often leads to disastrous consequences on the rights of workers and on the environment.
For example, banana plantations use 10 times more pesticides than conventional plantations in developed countries. Elevated exposure to these agrochemicals can cause serious health problems for workers and neighbouring communities - one of the topics addressed in the manual.
The manual also serves as a guide to identify risks and also as a source of information regarding current legislation to report on work-related accidents.
Of the almost 100 million tonnes of bananas consumed each year in the world, around 20 million tonnes are exported.