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Ecuador: $1B flower industry aids rural populations

Ecuador's flower industry, valued at $1 billion, ranks as the world's third-largest exporter of cut flowers. Most flower farms are located in rural communities in the Andes mountains, where the combination of rich volcanic soil and 12 hours of sunlight per day create an ideal environment for growing and cultivating flowers— especially roses.

The World Bank reports that in Ecuador, roughly one-third of the population resides in rural areas, with nearly half of these individuals living in poverty. The flower industry emerges as one of the few job opportunities for these communities. More than 48,000 Ecuadorians, roughly half of them women, are employed in growing and cultivating cut flowers. Although these workers have historically faced labor exploitation, advancements are underway in the region due to support from fair trade certifications, ethical companies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

A key factor in the exploitation of labor on flower farms stems from the absence of established standards and practices for workers. However, in the past two decades, numerous organizations have set these standards and certified compliant farms.

Founded in 2005, Flor Ecuador is a certification program that enforces safety, sustainability, and labor compliance across its many certified farms. Similarly, the Rainforest Alliance, a global organization, has certified several farms in Ecuador for adhering to its best practices. Another initiative that stands out as the most directly impactful certification in the region is Fairtrade. A 2020 study revealed that Fairtrade certification brought significant benefits to women workers on 10 certified flower farms. These women received equal wages, benefits, fair working conditions, and maternity leave.


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