There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to farming, and Johnny Gabriel Navas Aquim is breaking many of them!
In many Fairtrade commodities, farming is seen as a dead-end. One filled with back-breaking labor where you can work your whole life and struggle to make a profit. Because unfair trading practices are the norm – this is often true.
But Johnny refuses to let that be his reality. He is a 26-year-old, third-generation, small-scale banana farmer in Ecuador and a member of the Fairtrade-certified AsoGuabo Cooperative.
Taking on the family tradition
Johnny looked up to and learned from his farmer grandfather, waking up early to accompany him while visiting the farms. After high school, where he excelled in biology and chemistry, Johnny took over a plot of land to start his own farm. He experienced first-hand the struggles associated with farming, including the grueling labor, lack of a stable selling price for his crops and the need to plant a variety of fruit trees to make ends meet.
Innovating on his banana farm
Johnny entered university to study aquaculture engineering and microbiology. He earned his degree and improved his farmland by converting to organic production and implementing aquaculture practices. Johnny is a proud member of the AsoGuabo Cooperative, a grassroots organization of banana farmers that has grown to include 350 small-scale banana farmers committed to improving the quality of life for themselves and their communities.
The co-op earns an additional $1 per case of bananas in Fairtrade Premium – on top of the price.
In addition to earning a fair price for their bananas, the co-op earns an additional $1 per case (approx. 40 lbs of bananas) from the Fairtrade Premium. AsoGuabo’s members have voted to spend the Premium on education, health care, retirement, environmental projects and infrastructure improvements. Johnny appreciates all the cooperative does for its members, including providing food supplies and a Christmas bonus, offering educational benefits for producers, running a biofactory, producing its own fertilizer, recycling plastic and assisting with medical care.
Johnny’s hard work and innovative spirit, combined with stability of Fairtrade pricing, has created a situation where he can really thrive as a farmer. To raise awareness on the importance of fair trading practices, and to elevate Johnny’s incredible work, we collaborated with Reggie LeFlore to create a mural at the Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, Minnesota – where you can also conveniently find Fairtrade certified Equal Exchange bananas.
For over 35 years, Equal Exchange has pioneered an alternative model of trade that directly links small-scale farmer cooperatives and consumers through long-term, fair trade partnerships. Equal Exchange Produce works directly with small-scale farmer cooperatives in Ecuador, Mexico and Peru to bring organic and Fairtrade bananas and avocados to the U.S. market. Find more about our radical, alternative business at equalexchange.coop and on Facebook and Instagram
Reggie LeFlore is an artist and visual storyteller who focuses on human portraiture, specifically “everyday people.” His work features vibrant colors and contemporary elements that aim to capture the energy and spirit of his subjects.
Reggie is inspired by Johnny and his fellow farmers who work hard to improve their quality of life and take care of their communities. He is proud to partner with Fairtrade America on this mural project to create a connection between the people of Minneapolis and those who provide food we enjoy on a daily basis.
The Wedge Co-op
Twin Cities Co-op Partners (TCCP) connects the Minneapolis community to local growers, suppliers, farmers and producers through healthy, sustainable, ethically produced goods. TCCP’s mission is to provide access to real food made by real people that makes a difference in people’s lives and for the planet. TCCP is a welcoming and convenient market stocked with trusted products and services emphasizing delicious local and organic food. The co-op works to strengthen the local food system and pioneer a model of sustainable, profitable cooperatively-owned business.
This mural is located at the Wedge Co-op in at 2105 Lyndale Ave South, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55405.