PADF Responds to Devastating Mexican Earthquakes

Juchitán Earthquake

On September 7, a devastating magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck southern Mexico during the night. It was the most powerful Mexican earthquake in a century, and it killed more than 90 people in Juchitán and the surrounding area of Oaxaca and Chiapas. It also damaged vital infrastructure and various significant buildings, causing a state of emergency in the area. Powerful aftershocks were felt for days around the region. It also destroyed the region's main hospital and left families many doubting the structural integrity of their homes.

Mexico City Earthquake

Then, on September 19, a catastrophic magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico City and its surroundings, toppling dozens of buildings and severely damaging many more. Skyscrapers visibly rocked back and forth. Workers flooded the streets, hoping to get out before their workplaces crumbled. Nearly 300 people were killed in the incident, many trapped under rubble. Vital infrastructure and hundreds of community services like schools, shelters, roads and bridges suffered severe damage and urgently need to be rehabilitated.

PADF Responds

Both areas of the country need immediate assistance and emergency supplies. They also need long-term support to rebuild what they have lost to the misfortune of the disasters. PADF will assist the communities in greatest need, helping them to recover and rebuild their lives following the disaster. PADF is currently assessing the situation to intervene in the areas of greatest need, using its expertise in disaster response and coordination of resilient communities. 

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Hurricanes Irma & Maria Leave Thousands Homeless

On September 5-6, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda before moving on to hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Bahamas. The record-breaking Category 5 hurricane was the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, and it rendered thousands homeless.

Just a couple weeks after Hurricane Irma caused so much damage in the Leeward Islands, Hurricane Maria quickly strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane before smashing the island nation of Dominica with 160 mph winds and heavy rain. Several mudslides occurred as the hurricane destroyed 90% of buildings on the island, littering it with structural debris. The hurricane also pummeled straight into Puerto Rico, which caused extensive damage and knocked out its electrical grid. Now, 3.4 million residents could be facing a humanitarian crisis as officials say power could be off for moths. A major dam's structural integrity was compromised, and now it's threatening to collapse.

The hurricanes have caused damage of historic proportions. For the first time in 300 years, the entire island of Barbuda (of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda) is uninhabited, as its 1,800 now homeless residents fled to Antigua. Irma's 185 mph winds knocked out 95% of its infrastructure. In Dominica, 98% of all buildings have suffered damage, and many are beyond repair. In Puerto Rico, 3.4 million residents are still struggling to access electricity and water after its grid collapsed.

The gravity of the devastation calls for an immediate and long-term response to rebuild what was destroyed by the hurricanes.

“Our closest friends and neighbors in the Caribbean and Mexico are confronting some of most tragic natural disasters in the history of our Hemisphere. We must all respond to support their efforts to rebuild more resilient communities after such widespread destruction and suffering.”
— John Sanbrailo, Executive Director, PADF

PADF will work alongside local organizations to rebuild more resilient communities that are capable of withstanding and responding to future extreme weather events. Since first responding to disasters 55 years ago, we have developed a strong network of partners in the Caribbean that work with local communities to recover from disastrous events.

Now, you can be part of the disaster response. Monetary donations help alleviate immediate disaster-related needs, like locally-purchased water, food and supplies. Please donate to be a vital part of the Caribbean's effort to recover from these catastrophic storms.

Realistic Disaster Simulation Prepares Communities & Authorities

Guatemala is one of the most disaster-prone nations in the world. Between droughts, floods, volcano eruptions, earthquakes and landslides, Guatemala is geographically placed to experience a major disaster event more frequently than other countries.

And aside from its geographic placement, its weak infrastructure often amplifies the negative effects of weather hazards. PADF is working with local authorities in reducing the risk of disaster by making key changes to infrastructure and preparation.

But disaster events are often unforeseen. How can officials prepare to save more lives in the hours and days after a disaster?

In a simulation held by PADF on September 2 and 3, local disaster teams (called COLREDs) in Guatemala trained to respond to disaster situations. Local community members role-played as disaster victims, acting desperate with injuries painted on their skin, as COLRED members trained in first response and disaster recovery.

The simulation was part of the Yo Me Preparo project, funded by Taiwan.

More than 180 disaster response personnel - including firefighters, national police, and national disaster defense - were trained in the simulation. They learned about evacuation and security systems, first response, and emergency planning.

In addition, mechanisms were shown for saving the highest quantity of people possible in any disaster situation.

In Guatemala, communities built on steep hillsides are especially prone to experiencing landslides. Therefore, it was vital that COLRED members trained in excavating people and rescuing those who had been trapped inside their homes.

At the end of the day, participants were reminded of the importance of preparing for rainy season, when soil gets water-logged and loses its adhesiveness. Each community should work together to take preparative measures before the threat of a disaster, because Guatemala depends on its local disaster personnel to save lives.

PADF Selects New Executive Director: Catarina “Katie” Taylor

Washington, DC: The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is pleased to announce that it has selected Catarina "Katie" Taylor as its new Executive Director. She will assume her duties on October 1.

Taylor is an international executive deeply devoted to global development and to bringing private sector thinking to complex development challenges. She has extensive experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, and has led national and multi-million-dollar organizations, living and working across five continents. 

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Taylor learned management and leadership at GE – across healthcare, financial services, transportation and technology industries. She has founded and supported non-profits and communities throughout her career, devoting the past 10 years to social and public service, most recently as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). At USAID, Taylor led efforts on child and maternal survival and health. She also served as the U.S. government’s representative on the boards of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and as co-chair of the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn, & Child Health (PMNCH).

Among other roles, Taylor was previously the General Manager of GE Healthcare in Mexico, led GE Capital’s satellite and mortgages business development across Latin America, and guided a sales and marketing team for GE Transportation Systems in Brazil. Taylor is a Certified Master Black Belt in “Lean Six Sigma” quality improvement processes, and is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. She holds a BA in Political Science from Yale University, a graduate Certificate of Political Studies from the Institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and an MS in International Business Diplomacy from Georgetown University.

PADF President Luis Ubiñas indicated that the Board’s Selection Committee believed that Katie “brings a unique blend of public, private and non-profit experienced to PADF. She has worked and lived in Mexico and Brazil, leading local divisions for General Electric; has led a non-profit, gaining hands-on experience in fundraising; and most recently held a senior position at USAID.”

Taylor will replace PADF’s long-serving Executive Director, John Sanbrailo, who has directed the Foundation for the past 18 years. He will retire on September 30 after a 50 year international development career with the Peace Corps, USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and PADF. During his tenure, PADF grew from $8 million in operations in the 1990s to $95 million in 2016. The Foundation has implemented more than $1 billion in projects that helped to increase the incomes and improve the lives of millions of low income families and vulnerable communities in the LAC region. “Every organization has a seminal leader and John Sanbrailo has been that leader for PADF. His contributions to PADF and to the field of development will inspire generations of leaders," added PADF President Ubiñas.

PADF is an affiliate of the Organization of American States established in 1962 as an initiative of the Alliance for Progress.  It was created to upgrade the livelihoods of marginalized populations through microenterprises, community-driven development, strengthening the capacity of civil society and municipalities to better serve the poor, and to promote corporate social responsibility and public-private partnerships. The Foundation is an OAS instrument for aiding victims of natural disasters and humanitarian crises.  It supports integral development and Inter-American mandates to advance democracy, human rights, citizen security and to empower women, youth and ethnic minorities.

Royal Bahamas Female Police Participates in Non-Violence Seminar

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This story was originally published on

On Friday 1st September, 2017, female officers of the Force participated in a Women's Initiative for Non-Violence and Development (WIND) Seminar held at the Paul Farquharson Conference Center at Police Headquarters. 

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), one in three women will experience domestic violence globally, and the caribbean islands has an even higher rate of sexual violence than the global average, but with support from the U.S. State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the officers were given information about gender base violence (GBV) and how to deal with it. 

Lecturers for the seminar included Gaynell Curry; Director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, 
and Ms. Ayla Roberts and Ms. Lelia Green from The Crisis Center. 

Bringing remarks from the RBPF were Assistant Commissioner of Police Mrs. Ismela Davis-Delancy, Father Stephen Davies Force Chaplin and Detective Superintendent Shanta Knowles (CDU). 

Project coordinator was Ms Latara Evans of the Pan American Development Fund (PADF) Country Project.

LEAD Entrepreneurs Manufacturing New Local Jobs

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How two Haitian constructors have fought the odds to keep business local, boosting the area's economy by taking advantage of LEAD funding.

In Haiti, infrastructure projects are one of the largest employers in the national economy.  Even though aid from other countries boosted the construction/manufacturing sector after the 2010 earthquake, aid has decreased considerably in recent years. Regardless, the demand for quality, affordable, locally-produced, disaster-resistant buildings still remains.

"Locally-produced" is key. Hundreds of retail stores purchase construction material from foreign wholesalers before importing and reselling the material in Haiti. Very little construction material is produced locally, leaving a lucrative market valued at $70.91 million to manufacturers overseas.

It could be a huge market for Haiti, but that money is getting shipped off the island. Haitian construction/manufacturing companies face very few regulatory issues. Two companies have taken advantage of the situation and placed themselves as a permanent part of Haiti's construction sector.

The USAID-funded LEAD program is proud to sponsor two construction/manufacturing enterprises that have served Haiti by producing and constructing locally. The two businesses have been highly successful, independently creating over 1,000 jobs and generating over $5 million in sales. Here's a peek into what makes these enterprises so special:

A home designed and constructed by Veerhouse Voda, S.A.

A home designed and constructed by Veerhouse Voda, S.A.

Veerhouse Voda, S.A.

The 2010 earthquake was devastating, turning buildings into piles of rubble on the ground. Veerhouse Voda S.A. established in 2012 as a result of the earthquake, upon the premise that they could build build a new type of steel construction that would prevent future natural hazards from becoming disastrous. The foreigner CEO, Brendon Brewster, has faced setbacks and unique obstacles, like getting loans from local banks and convincing international investors to invest in a place as volatile as Haiti. After Veerhouse Voda leaped through hurdle after hurdle, they soon found the support they were looking for when they participated in the LEAD business plan competition.

Since winning the US-funded grant, Veerhouse Voda has attracted other investors, enabling them to open a steel frame manufacturing plant in Port-au-Prince. Veerhouse Voda serves its clients by offering a business model that reduces costly material and engineering expenses. Aside from quality construction, their clients appreciate their transparent and open way of doing business.

Their structures are Eurocode compliant, hurricane and earthquake safe, energy efficient, and allow for quicker construction than traditional methods. Veerhouse Voda sells its manufactured material to local hardware stores, thereby building local economy.

They also offer trainings for "affiliate builders," or their partners, on using a variety of steel frames they produce in new engineering techniques.

The company grossed only $360K last year, but this year they have six construction contracts totaling $3.9 million. Major construction projects include a therapy center, rehab center, dialysis center, hospitals, and schools.

Aside from their construction projects, Veerhouse Voda is launching several socially-oriented projects, including an educational program on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). They also train other construction companies on how to use the EPS construction method, thereby disseminating their disaster-resistant construction methods.

As of August 2017, Veerhouse Voda has created 931 jobs and has generated $3.6 million in sales. Veerhouse Voda takes pride not only in its many building projects, but more importantly on the thousands of lives its projects have changed.

Expert Concept owner Monique Duperval presents on her company and LEAD.

Expert Concept owner Monique Duperval presents on her company and LEAD.

Expert Concept

Expert Concept S.A. is a woman-owned company that specializes in the construction of hurricane- and earthquake-resistant buildings. It constructs buildings using reinforced concrete or steel and provides electromechanical installation services. The company opened in 2006, but it wasn't until 2013 that it integrated into the metal structure construction market by opening one of Haiti's first metal factories. Its strategy is to offer specialized services that are usually outsourced to foreign firms.

After winning the LEAD business grant, Expert Concept had enough capital to open another workshop and since then, its production has increased significantly. The firm is part of the very few that offer quality construction services and products at an excellent price ratio.

In a highly male-dominated sector, Mrs. Monique Duperval, the CEO of Expert Concept, is the only woman in the country who is managing such a large construction/manufacturing company. The many successes of her projects have been acknowledged with awards all over the country. She's led the construction of schools, hotels, and the reconstruction of a college.

"The LEAD program's support has been a concrete bond," quips Duperval.

Expert Concept is now the only Haitian company that has a metallic structure workshop. With two strategically located workshops, it has been able to grow with more clients than ever. Expert Concept has created 275 direct jobs and generated $1.5 million in sales, as of August 2017.

More about our work in Haiti.

Haiti Revitalization Featured as Model for Community Approach to Development

The World Bank has released its report on the ABCs of the Community Approach to Development. With over 270,000 people affected by improved access to services like water and plumbing, safer streets, and cleaner neighborhoods, PADF's PRODEPUR project in Haiti was featured as a model to follow. The following is an excerpt from that report.


Crime and violence pose serious challenges to Haiti’s development. Poor urban neighborhoods in Haiti have been both victims and causes of explosive conflicts that combine demographic, socioeconomic, institutional, and political risk factors. Armed gangs in the country’s major disadvantaged urban areas—particularly those of the capital, Port-au-Prince—have used these areas as a base for kidnapping and other criminal activities. The negative activities of these groups extended across the capital and beyond, with damaging loses to human welfare and economic activity, and fueling high rates of violent crime.

Violence and insecurity in Port-auPrince’s disadvantaged urban areas in particular have undermined Haiti’s political process, fueled conflict, impeded economic activity, imposed costs on residents and businesses, increased migration abroad, and negatively affected development and reconstruction efforts following the 2010 earthquake.

Partly due to this crime and violence, living conditions in Cité-Soleil, BelAir, Martissant, and the other violent, impoverished areas in Haiti’s cities have ranked among the worst in the Americas. Amid high unemployment and acute poverty, malnutrition prevailed among residents.

Poor access to safe water and sanitation in these slums, as well as a lack of solid waste collection, threatened residents’ health and the environment. There were few public facilities or services and only a nascent presence of state institutions of any kind, including law enforcement.


The CDD approach, which grants control over planning decisions and investment resources for local development projects to community groups, was selected as a means to help mitigate conflict and violence in Haiti and to support stabilization in targeted slum areas by quickly providing improved access to basic services and income generation opportunities to beneficiary communities. IDA has committed US$53.2 million to the Haiti Urban Community-Driven Development Project (PRODEPUR in French). PRODEPUR operated in 10 of 17 “priority zones” identified by the government across five municipalities.

The government focused interventions in the priority zones to build political stability by restoring basic services and demonstrating visible improvements for the residents of these particularly volatile neighborhoods, which had high levels of violence and crime. Community-based organizations, through a participatory process, proposed, selected, implemented, and maintained subprojects that improved access to basic and social services. The project also introduced a flexible and participatory demarcation method to identify intervention areas as official demarcations barely existed.


PRODEPUR helped improve the living conditions of more than 270,000 persons (as of February 2015) by supporting existing community initiatives to expand access to water, electricity, and sanitation services. The program also helped improve neighborhoods by constructing public spaces and rehabilitating roads and corridors, thus connecting residents to health centers, schools, and other services in nearby communities.

Under the project, 493 subprojects were implemented in targeted areas of Port-au-Prince and three other cities. In response to the January 2010 earthquake, with additional financing, the project immediately prioritized subprojects that addressed the disaster recovery needs of project communities, such as cash-for-work subprojects focused on the removal of debris from public spaces and cleaning of local drainage ditches.

These activities provided temporary jobs to over 5,000 people in the neighborhoods of Belair, Cité Soleil, Delmas, and Martissant. The additional financing funded a new component—Housing Repair and Reconstruction—that contributed to community-wide upgrading, including basic infrastructure and services which benefited approximately 24,800 urban households.

PRODEPUR also supported smallscale infrastructure and productive/ income-generating subprojects. Force d’Entraide Nationale pour le Développement (FENAD), a small brick-making factory, is one of the completed subprojects funded by PRODEPUR. When FENAD decided to start the business in 2010, it lacked financial and technical resources. Identified by PRODEPUR in 2012 as a promising subproject to support, FENAD put up more than ten percent of the equity capital and received US$20,000 in funding. Thanks to technical and administrative training from the program, workers and senior staff improved both the product and the management of the company.

By 2015, FENAD had grown to 40 workers from the community, 50 indirect workers, 1,500 bricks sold daily, and up to 150,000 Haitian gourdes (approximately US$3,200) in monthly profit. These numbers truly represent a success story for a company that started out with ten workers and sold at most 150 bricks daily. Today, in addition to being selfsustaining, FENAD has also bought its own land. “We worked hard; we paid one million gourdes (roughly US$21,000), using the profit we made,” says Chevelin Nicolas, the FENAD manager, proudly.

Young Goiás Women to Become Entrepreneurs in New Empowerment Project

The project is known as "Meninas Super Empreendedoras" in Brazil.

The project is known as "Meninas Super Empreendedoras" in Brazil.

Leia em português.

Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil (August 21, 2017) - The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), in cooperation with the Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE) of Goiás state, the State Secretary of Health’s Executive Group on Drugs (GEED), and the Pró-Cerrado Foundation, is holding a public event to launch a new project, Women Power! (WOMP!), which will empower young women in the region of Goiânia and Aparecida de Goiânia to improve their economic situations and well-being through entrepreneurship.

The event will be held at 2pm on August 24 at the Mauro Borges Auditorium in the Pedro Ludovico Palace in Goiânia’s Civic Plaza, attended by project participants, local leaders, and authorities. Directly following the kickoff event, 150 young women will attend the project’s first seminar on innovation and motivation.

“In Brazil, women do not have the same opportunities as men and frequently earn less than their male counterparts,” said Paulo Cavalcanti, PADF’s Country Representative in Brazil. “Many want brighter futures but they are particularly disadvantaged.”

Gender inequality in Brazil is a vast problem, evidenced by violence against women and disproportionate income between genders. The outlook is particularly grim for women of color, who are most likely to be poor and distanced from the levers of power. In Goiás, women’s income is only 70% of men’s. It is especially challenging for women to find business opportunities in non-traditional fields for women such as digital technology.

“We’re excited to have designed a program that allows young women to thrive by creating small businesses,” said Cavalcanti. “The best response to gender inequality is to empower young women.”

Young women in the WOMP! program will participate in seminars on confidence and self-esteem, complete an 80-hour entrepreneurship training program, and establish mentoring relationships with successful businesswomen to implement individual business plans. Upon completing the program, they will be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and support to start small businesses.

“This is a great opportunity for young women to become entrepreneurial women capable of deciding their own future,” said Cavalcanti, “generating economic wealth for their families, and improving their quality of life.”

PADF is proud to partner with local organizations to implement the project. SEBRAE is an autonomous Brazilian institution that fosters the development of entrepreneurship and small enterprises. GEED is a specialized agency under the State Secretary of Health that coordinates public policy on drugs in Goiás. The Pró-Cerrado Foundation is a youth-focused organization that works with the private, public, and non-profit sectors to prevent school violence and dropouts, generate income and employment, and foster human development.

PADF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization affiliated with the Organization of American States that works to assist vulnerable and excluded people and communities in the Americas to achieve sustainable economic and social progress. PADF has worked in Brazil for more than a decade to promote environmental protection, increase health care access for vulnerable populations, and support local organizations.

Media contact:
Paulo Cavalcanti
PADF Country Representative, Brazil
55+61 3329.6006

Chris Wooley
Program Manager
+1 (202) 458-3350

PADF on Twitter: @PADForg
PADF on Facebook:

As Meninas Super Empreendedoras

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Read in English.

Goiânia, Goiás, Brasil (21 de agosto de 2017) - A Fundação Pan-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (PADF), em cooperação com o Serviço de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas (SEBRAE) do Estado de Goiás, o Grupo Executivo de Enfrentamento as Drogas (GEED) e a Fundação Pró-Cerrado, realiza um evento público para lançar um novo projeto, Meninas Super Empreendedoras, que capacitará mulheres jovens na região de Goiânia e Aparecida de Goiânia a melhorar sua situação econômica e seu bem-estar através do empreendedorismo.

O evento será realizado às 14 horas do dia 24 de agosto no Auditório Mauro Borges, no Palácio Pedro Ludovico, na Praça Cívica – centro de Goiânia e será assistido pelas participantes do projeto, líderes locais e autoridades. Como parte do evento inicial, 150 jovens mulheres participarão do primeiro seminário sobre inovação e motivação do projeto.

"No Brasil, as mulheres não têm as mesmas oportunidades que os homens e, com frequência, ganham menos do que homens em posições idênticas", afirmou Paulo Cavalcanti, representante da PADF no Brasil. "Muitas querem um futuro mais brilhante, mas são particularmente desfavorecidas".

A desigualdade de gênero no Brasil é um grande problema, evidenciado pela violência contra as mulheres e a renda desproporcional entre os gêneros. A perspectiva é particularmente sombria para as afrodescendentes, que são mais propensas a ser pobres e distanciadas dos altos níveis do poder. Em Goiás, a renda mensal das mulheres é de apenas 70% do que ganham os homens.

“É especialmente desafiante para as mulheres encontrarem oportunidades de negócios em campos não tradicionais para elas, como a tecnologia digital. Por isso estamos ansiosos por haver projetado um programa que permitirá que as mulheres jovens prosperem criando pequenas empresas", disse Cavalcanti. "A melhor resposta à desigualdade de gênero é capacitar mulheres jovens para que se tornem empresárias de futuro".

As mulheres jovens do programa Meninas Super Empreendedoras participarão de seminários sobre confiança e auto-estima, cumprirão um programa de treinamento empresarial de 80 horas e estabelecerão relacionamentos de mentorías com empresárias bem-sucedidas para implementar planos de negócios individuais. Ao concluir o programa, elas estarão preparadas com os conhecimentos, habilidades e o suporte necessário para iniciar pequenas empresas, além de terem uma nova visão para suas vidas.

"Esta é uma ótima oportunidade para essas jovens se tornarem empreendedoras capazes de decidir o seu próprio futuro", disse Cavalcanti, "gerando riqueza econômica para suas famílias e melhorando sua qualidade de vida".

A PADF tem orgulho de se associar com organizações locais para implementar esse projeto. O SEBRAE é uma instituição autônoma brasileira que promove o desenvolvimento do empreendedorismo e das pequenas empresas. O GEED é uma agência especializada da Secretaria de Estado da Saúde que coordena a política pública de enfrentamento as drogas em Goiás. A Fundação Pró-Cerrado é uma organização orientada para a juventude sem fins lucrativos e que trabalha com os setores publico e privado para prevenir a violência e o abandono escolar, gerar renda e emprego, além de promover o desenvolvimento humano.

A PADF é uma organização sem fins lucrativos 501(c)(3) afiliada à Organização dos Estados Americanos que trabalha para ajudar pessoas e comunidades vulneráveis excluídas nas Américas a alcançar um progresso econômico e social sustentável. A PADF trabalha no Brasil há mais de uma década para promover a proteção ao meio ambiente, responder a crises humanitárias e aos desastres naturais, aumentar o acesso aos cuidados de saúde para populações vulneráveis apoiar organizações locais.

Contato com a imprensa:
Paulo Cavalcanti
Representante do país PADF, Brasil

PADF no Facebook: @PADFbrasil, @PADForg
PADF no Twitter: /padfnobrasil,  /padforg

Book Review: Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs

Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs

Book Review by John Sanbrailo

Written by Douglas Southgate and Lois Roberts

Reviewed by John Sanbrailo, Executive Director of PADF, former USAID Mission Director in Ecuador.

Many books and articles have been written about the banana business, which is hardly surprising in light of its sheer size.  As reported at the beginning of Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs, banana exports outstrip international shipments of every other fruit and vegetable.  The global banana trade is also more important than the global rice trade, since cross-border shipments of the staple grain are tiny relative to national harvests and domestic consumption in China, India, and other nations.

Another reason for all the books and articles about the banana industry is that no part of the food economy is associated more closely with large corporations headquartered in the United States.  The industry was largely the creation of the United Fruit Company, called the Octopus because of its near monopoly in the U.S. market as well as its control of supplies in the Caribbean Basin for many years after its founding in 1899.  And since the 1930s, the exploits and abuses of United Fruit (now Chiquita Brands International) and other firms in banana republics south of the U.S. border have been a recurring theme of the scholarly literature and writings intended for a general audience.

The book written by economist Douglas Southgate and historian Lois Roberts has a different focus.  Rather than hewing to the standard banana republic narrative, they are primarily interested in the contributions that homegrown entrepreneurs have made to tropical fruit development.  The importance of these contributions in Colombia since World War II is stressed by Marcelo Bucheli, a historian at the University of Illinois.  Southgate and Roberts’s book is mainly about Ecuador.

Ecuador is considerably smaller and poorer than Colombia, just to the north, so one might assume that the Octopus has dominated the country economically and politically.  Reinforcing the perception that Ecuador is just another banana republic is that it has been the world’s leading exporter of tropical fruit since 1953.  As is documented in Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs, United Fruit and other U.S. firms have left their mark on Ecuador’s banana industry.  However, Southgate and Roberts emphasize that the country became a fruit-exporting powerhouse without sacrificing its independence.

The two authors examine all factors underlying this accomplishment.  For one thing, western Ecuador, where banana production is concentrated, has various environmental advantages, not least fertile soils and a Caribbean climate minus the hurricanes.  Additionally, the national government has at times facilitated expansion of the tropical fruit sector, particularly during the presidency of Galo Plaza Lasso from 1948 to 1952.  But the key players in that expansion have been Ecuadorian entrepreneurs.  Those individuals, Southgate and Roberts contend, deserve much of the credit for the worldwide reach their country has achieved in the banana business – worldwide reach that helped bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989, as some German leaders and writers have maintained.

Individuals such as Juan X. Marcos, Luís Noboa, and Segundo Wong pursued their careers in Guayaquil:  a hub for export-oriented entrepreneurship for more than a century.  Thanks largely to venturesome merchants in the port city, Ecuador was the leading supplier of cacao to European and U.S. chocolate manufacturers during the late 1800s and early 1900s – as described in one of Roberts’s other books.  The cacao boom, which ended after World War I, left Guayaquil with a network of essential business services.  Ecuador’s commercial capital also possesses something not matched by any other banana exporter:  a national market worthy of the name, one in which hundreds of growers (the vast majority with modest holdings) sell their harvests to dozens of exporters and other buyers.  This market, which has not been fully replicated in any banana-exporting nation, is an ideal setting for entrepreneurship and is a fundamental reason why Ecuador has remained atop the global banana industry for decades.

Forgoing a reprise of the familiar narrative about the Octopus and its hold on banana republics, Southgate and Roberts instead set the record straight.  Dr. Joachim von Braun, formerly the director of the International Food Policy Research Institute and now a professor at the University of Bonn, observes that Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs “refreshingly corrects conventional wisdom about the banana industry.”  In particular, the book sheds light on something inconceivable for adherents of the banana republic narrative:  United Fruit’s old monopoly is gone, thanks largely to the efforts of Marcos, Noboa, Wong, and others like them.

What’s more, the Octopus no longer exists as an independent, U.S.-based industry.  In October 2014, Brazilian investors announced they would be buying Chiquita, “lock, stock, and bananas,” as Southgate and Roberts observe.  Generations of the company’s admirers and critics, they add, would be astonished.