Fort Lauderdale, FL – At Chiquita, we are passionate about growing bananas – in fact, you could say we’re bananas about our business! Though we’re incredibly proud that people have come to know and love our brand for our delicious, high quality bananas, you may not know that we’re also extremely committed to sustainability. Following our mission of being a ‘Good Neighbor’ to our farming communities, Chiquita works to protect biodiversity through a variety of impactful environmental projects. In honor of International Day of Forests on March 21, let’s have a look at some of Chiquita’s sustainability efforts!
What we do to protect biodiversity
There is growing evidence that all businesses need to make big changes in how they think about and work in the environment. So, when we grow and process our tasty yellow bananas, we do our best to minimize our impact on the communities in which we work.
Intelligent growing: On our farms in Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala and Honduras, we work very hard to increase productivity while maintaining and improving biodiversity. We’ve made sure that forests will no longer be cleared for agricultural expansion.
We limit all our production to areas that can support long-term cultivation. If we cannot guarantee this, we’ll return the land to its natural state. We pioneered this approach and are now focused on helping forests flourish through reforestation, along with our plans to rejuvenate and re-engineer our farmland. The Rainforest Alliance closely monitors our work in this area.
There are various tactics we use to drive down the impact of our operations on biodiversity. First, we use product rotation and good agricultural practices like preventive defoliation (picking off leaves), pest checks, and pest traps. We’re also adopting precision agriculture, which carefully targets agro-chemicals to exactly where and when they’re really needed, and only using approved products.
Savvy water saving: We have installed an industry-leading water-smart system called ‘dry de-handing’, which has driven down our water usage at 23% of our packing stations so far. This novel technology is saving around 9.4 million liters of water per year at each station, to a total of 1.7 billion liters each year on average to date. We also use water recycling systems, micro-irrigation and ground cover to make sure we use the least water possible. Overall, where we’ve installed these systems, we’ve managed to cut water use by 80% and of course we’re looking to extend these great new techniques across our business.
We believe it’s important to return areas to a more natural state where we can improve biodiversity. Our goals are:
· To conserve biodiversity in the long term
· To raise awareness in communities through environmental education
· To promote participation of local communities
The Nogal reserve
Nogal is a great example of the type of work we’ve been doing to return land to its natural state. Founded in 2004 in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica, the reserve is the result of a collaboration between Chiquita and some select customers to promote conservation and protection of biodiversity. We donated 900 trees grown at the reserve to development associations and community organizations working on reforestation and protecting the environment.
The results have been remarkable. In 2017, three new species were discovered in the reserve when wildlife tracking took place – a tapir (Costa Rica’s largest land-based mammal), a bell bird and a yellow spotted lizard. This winter, in partnership with the GIZ Farm to Table initiative, Chiquita installed several hidden cameras to track animal activity in the area and discovered that a wide variety of animals are thriving in the reserve. Species captured on video include Ocelot, Deer, Anteater, Coyote, Armadillo, Horned Guan, and more.
Chiquita was also one of 25 organizations that participated in the First National Primate Count 2021. This project aims to generate data of the four non-human primate species found in Costa Rica through citizen participation. Between January 15, 2021 and January 30, 2021, 82 non-human primates were found in the Nogal Reserve. This shows the reserve is doing its job as part of the larger Mesoamerican Biological Corridor initiative, which aims to connect and protect forested reserves so that wildlife can move freely between them.
With support from the German Society for International Cooperation, the Costa Rican government and the Rainforest Alliance, we’ve undertaken a range of initiatives to support conservation and education, protecting over 720 plant and 339 animal species over the reserve’s 257 acres of land.
In May 2020 we celebrated the reserve’s 15th anniversary. We invest a lot of thought and effort into protecting biodiversity, and Nogal is a shining example of our efforts. We’ve planted over 20,000 trees there to help improve air quality, create safe shelter for wildlife, and reduce the risk of floods and landslides.
Community education: Since we started the Nogal project, we’ve worked to inspire and involve local communities by coordinating environmental education programs. So far, over 30,000 students and farmers have taken part in our programs, improving their knowledge about biodiversity, waste management, ecosystem services and conservation. Along with these resources, we’ve helped to build a school cafeteria, open air gym and library with community internet access.
San San wetland project
The San San project was created in 2008 to help conserve biodiversity and support community development in the border region between Costa Rica and Panama. The San San Pond Sak reserve is a Ramsar wetland of international importance near the Caribbean shore. In February 2018, Chiquita donated 160ha of reforested land in the wetland to the people of Panama, which was the result of successful partnerships with various public and private organizations, each working together to protect Panama’s environment.
As you can see, we’re proud of our green track record. We believe that big companies like ours have a duty to do good for the areas and communities in which we work, and we deeply care about creating a positive impact on the environment and biodiversity. So, you can be sure that when you buy a bunch of our delicious Chiquita bananas, you’re not only getting great taste and top quality, but also making a truly sustainable purchase.
To learn more, visit www.chiquita.com.