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BOHESI - Banana Occupational Health and Safety

The Banana Occupational Health and Safety Initiative (BOHESI) is a pilot project being implemented in Ecuador and Cameroon with an unprecedented involvement of public and private sector actors, as well as civil society, at local and international levels. Amongst its key outcomes, it counts with ground-breaking transformations relating to labour rights concerns for banana workers in the field of occupational health and safety (OHS). 

Only in Ecuador, the institutional impacts achieved by BOHESI activities have the potential to reach 163,039 hectares of banana farms, which are distributed amongst 4,787 small to large producers. These impacts will potentially benefit up to 220,000 workers employed in the Ecuadorian banana sector directly and 2 to 2.5 million indirectly (MAG, 2015). 

In Cameroon, the industry actors involved – both company and trade union – represent the entire national banana export sector, reaching approximately 8,000 hectares of banana farms and at least 14,000 workers employed directly in the industry.

Bearing this in mind, it is important to highlight the key achievements and future steps of the BOHESI project, as they can provide key learnings for the future of OHS activities in the banana industry on a global scale.

The initiative, inaugurated in 2014 and coordinated by Solidaridad, Banana Link and the World Banana Forum Secretariat, has counted on the Ecuadorian public sector, through the main intervention of the Ministry of Labour (MoL), in the compilation of legislation, the writing of technical notes, and content review; in addition, the support of the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) and the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS), which have supported in the review of the contents. In turn, the collaborators of BOHESI, in addition to the members of the WBF, have contributed by providing private manuals, content review and opinions. The initiative has also been supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), in addition to the Social Protection Division of the FAO (ESP). 

BOHESI has been financed mainly by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), established by the Dutch government, which is itself financed by various European governments. The initiative has also counted on financial contributions from: Tesco, Fairtrade International (FLO), Compagnie Frutière, PHP, IPL/ASDA, REWE, Jumbo, Fyffes and AgroAmerica; and in-kind contributions from Solidaridad, CDC, the WBF Secretariat, AEBE, Compagnie Frutière, PHP, PHP Union, FAWU and Dole.  

Why Target Occupational Health and Safety in the Banana Industry?

Bananas are the most consumed fruit in the world and the global industry equates to over 10 billion dollars per year. However, the largely monoculture production of this fruit involves intensive use of agrochemicals and significant risks to the health and safety of workers, producers and their communities. 

To address this priority issue on an industry level, a key number of stakeholders – government, companies, producers, certifiers, trade unions and NGOs – came together under the umbrella of the World Banana Forum (WBF) to form BOHESI. Ultimately, the initiative aims to contribute to a more socially and environmentally sustainable banana production and trade with improved standards of living (in particular, in relation to health and natural resource access) for male and female banana workers, farmers and surrounding communities.

BOHESI Achievements 

  • Manual for Occupational Health and Safety in the Banana Sector

One of the fundamental achievements of the initiative to-date has been the development and consensus reached on a Manual on Occupational Health and Safety in the banana industry, which was developed as a result of collaborative tripartite efforts. 

In Ecuador, the manual could achieve an institutional transformation within the local banana industry, which has primarily been as a result of the strong involvement and cooperation of key actors including the Ministries of Labour and Agriculture, the Ecuadorian Institute for Social Security (IESS), AEBE (Ecuadorian Banana Exporters Association), private sector partners and civil society organizations (including COLSIBA – Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-Industrial Workers Unions), amongst others.

The manual has been developed in line with the national legislative framework as well as international requirements. It will be presented as the National Manual on Occupational Health and Safety for the Ecuadorian Banana Sector during the Third Global Conference of the World Banana Forum. This activity may contribute to subsequent ongoing collaborative processes for the development of a National Regulation on OHS in the banana sector, but may also ultimately serve as a starting point for the creation of a National Regulation on OHS in the agriculture sector more generally. 

After the successful development of the Manual in Ecuador, it has been adapted to be used in the Cameroonian context and reviewed by local companies (PHP and CDC) and trade union (FAWU and PHP Union Platform) partners.   

The tripartite development process has resulted in a ‘best practice’ manual for the industry in Cameroon, which can be easily adapted to the local context in different countries of production. Upon its completion, the final manual will be available through the following link: www.fao.org/world-banana-forum/projects/bohesi/en/

  • Tripartite Dialogue on OHS – Towards the Ratification of ILO Convention 184

In Ecuador, the WBF has promoted tripartite collaboration since the launch of the initiative, bearing tangible results, in respect to both the development and consensus on the Manual, as well as the possible ratification of ILO’s Convention 184 on OHS. The ILO has provided its support in the pursuit of these activities.  

In Cameroon, a Committee on Convention 184 has been set up between local company and trade union banana industry partners, who meet quarterly to discuss the potential ratification and implementation of Convention 184, engage the government in sector level dialogue, and also share practices and learnings on OHS within the framework of BOHESI. 

  • Preparatory training in Cameroon

Initial training on OHS has been funded and supported by BOHESI and implemented by local trade union partners FAWU and the PHP Union Platform. The objective has been to raise awareness amongst workers on key OHS issues with respect to Convention 184, strengthen joint-OHS committees, and promote greater company-union collaboration on OHS training and programme implementation. This preparatory training has reached approximately 500 workers and union leaders.

Activities for 2017 – 2018: 

At a national level:

  • Manual on Occupational Health and Safety
    • Ecuador – launching of the National Manual on Occupational Health and Safety in November 2017, during the Third Global Conference of the World Banana Forum
    • Cameroon – final review and design of the manual in collaboration with partners, including a full gender review by an OHS expert; the final manual is to be ready for distribution in January 2018
  • ‘Training of Trainers’
    • Ecuador – OHS representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the private sector (AEBE), and trade unions will receive training in order to disseminate information amongst the many independent producers and workers in the banana sector. The training, to be coordinated by extension workers of the public sector for the training of small- and medium-sized producers, and the private sector for the training of workers in large plantations, could potentially cover the entire Ecuadorian banana sector.
    • Cameroon – company and trade union OHS representatives at PHP and CDC will receive training to be co-facilitated by BOHESI consultants, the IUF and Banana Link
  • Training of OHS Committees and workers at plantation level
  • Tripartite Commissions on OHS
    • Facilitate the establishment of tripartite commissions to effectively address OHS concerns at a national level, and to further support practical steps towards the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 184 
  • Project Evaluation
    • Evaluate the impact of the BOHESI project at a national scale, as well as plan for the continuation and replication of BOHESI activities once the project has ended

At industry level:

A Tripartite Conference on Occupational Health and Safety in the Banana Sector will be held end of 2018, to:

  • Share the learnings and results of the BOHESI pilot projects in Ecuador and Cameroon
  • Investigate opportunities for the replication of the project in other countries of production
  • Develop an industry strategy on health and safety, as well as for the ratification of ILO Convention 184, to ensure the sustainability of the BOHESI project objectives beyond 2018

Expected Outcomes

  • Improvement in occupational health and safety (OHS) prevention, management and control at the plantation and farm level in banana producing countries
  • Effective collaboration on OHS between companies, workers and governments, through joint capacity building programs, as well as the establishment and strengthening of workplace and national tripartite OHS committees
  • Strengthening of tripartite dialogue processes for OHS towards regulatory and institutional changes, and the ratification of ILO’s Convention 184
  • National and industry level progress on OHS through effective collaboration between government and private sector agencies and institutions
  • Development of industry expertise on OHS and prevention and control, including psycho-social risks, gender issues and participatory education methods.