Thesis subject

A cross-cultural communication strategy to keep Peruvian small banana farmers in international value chain

Since more than 15 years, AgroFair Europe B.V. (and some other) operate in the north of Peru (Sullana), where we buy Fairtrade certified organic bananas from cooperatives of small farmers. These coops are also (indirectly) shareholders of our company. They have various certifications, but their organisations are weak. It becomes increasingly difficult for them to perform adequately in terms of perfect order fulfilment, organic integrity (illicit use of chemicals), good management of the cooperative and management of the Fairtrade premium.

We are looking for a motivated student, with good study results, open minded, with good Spanish skills, with empathy, who can do a good analysis but also propose designs for interventions.

Research question

How should a good communication strategy be defined so that small farmers receive the necessary information and understanding so that they can continue to perform in an international export banana value chain.

Type of activities

Quantitative and qualitative research by means of surveys and interviews.

Background

In the past years we have voiced all our concerns, at times very loudly, to the boards of these coops, but there the message is not picked up and certainly not communicate to the producer base. This means that producers have a very limited view of the importance of their work, also because of low levels of education. The balance between rights and obligations is skewed, with producers and boards claiming high prices, taking little responsibility and putting the blame on the customer. The result is that prices have sky rocketed, that there have been organic food scandals and that the value chain is threatened to disappear or shrink drastically. There is a huge lack of social capital and internal discussion and coordination based on good and reliable information. Many rumours are going around, mutual trust is very low. In this context, we’d like to have the communication environment analysed and pathways for interventions and improvement explored.

To note also: for our company this is the first time that we take the initiative to develop a more profound communication and development strategy. However, throughout the past 15 years, there have been numerous trainings, workshops (talleres) and information sessions, probably with paid attendance and food, provided by various institutions and NGOs. There is an existing “participatory workshop industry”. Our experience is that the effectiveness of all these workshops has been limited and that farmer participants have been usually quite indifferent. Of course, many farmers are farmers not by conviction, but by obligation or lack of alternative and not all that motivated. For us as a company, that is a given. There are also other importers operating in the area, and also farmer coops are supplying these which means also that we are limited in the amount of resources we can spend if we want to avoid that we are paying for the competition.