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Moving Forward Together

Moving Forward Together

Celebrating 20 Years of the DALE Foundation

In 2001, Dole set up a foundation in Ecuador with a clear purpose: invest in the lives of workers and communities in and around the banana farms and facilities.

For decades Dole’s banana operations have been in rural areas where there existed a gap in the communities—limited accessible and affordable public service resources. There was a collective need by both business and the localities to help fill that gap – to bring services closer and invest in the health and wellness of farmers, their families, and others in these communities.

Today, as we celebrate the milestone 20th anniversary of what became known as the DALE Foundation and begin to emerge from the global pandemic, never before has the foundation’s focus on education, health, and community development been more important.  The DALE Foundation helps to address social needs in communities that we share in Ecuador and Peru, helping to empower people with training, opportunities for second income generation, and increased resiliency.

DALE (pronounced DAH-leh) has two significant meanings in Spanish. One is simply, “to give”. The other, that further describes the work of the foundation, is a word of encouragement: “go ahead, you can do it!” Jointly funded by Dole and independent growers, the DALE Foundation provides a network of medical resources—like primary healthcare via on-staff physicians, nurses and dentists, education on preventative care, vaccination access and mobile medical clinics. In education, foundation investments help contribute to the construction of schools, improvements to existing facilities and nutritional programs; and through community investments, DALE helps bring technical training to participants to develop skills that will help contribute to extra household income like sewing, baking and gardening.

One of the key programs is to deliver skill-based training and help support the creation of small businesses, where community members are empowered with the goal to generate new income for families.  A great example is Carmen Sandoval, a member of the Los Rios Entrepreneurial Mothers Association in Ecuador, whose group was formed after the foundation-funded sewing training in 2011.

“In the beginning the DALE Foundation helped us and now we have become independent, with our own workshop,” she said. “Our expectation is to continue growing and working for the community, the Dole group, and other companies that rely on our work.”

The DALE Foundation has also funded initiatives that benefit the area at large, meeting basic needs of the community like the construction of roads, warehouse facilities, and equipment to support new entrepreneurs.

Supporting Those Behind the Banana

From its beginning, the DALE Foundation has been grounded in the principle that all people have the right to a dignified life. By committing to support those who work on our Dole-owned farms, independent producers, and simply those who live in communities near Dole operations, the DALE Foundation is a critical component to the stability of our supply chain.

Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas in the world, with Peru rapidly increasing its production. Banana production is a major source of steady employment in the region. The investment and development of these workers helps contribute most importantly to healthier and more stable communities, which also benefits Dole with a strong and engaged workforce. We’re focused on improving the lives of generations today and those to come, which is why a portion of Dole’s profit from every box of Dole-branded bananas sold helps fund these local community impact projects. This funding system helps ensure DALE Foundation’s support of education, health, and community development services remains sustainable over time.

Prioritizing Wellness through Healthcare

Healthcare has been a key priority for the DALE Foundation over the past two decades. Many of these communities have been underserved from a medical perspective or have found care difficult to access and expensive.  What started with strong headwinds as something seemingly unnatural to this region, the growers have since become firm proponents and advocates of this aspect, leading to a stronger, healthier workforce with improved quality products.

During COVID, DALE helped deliver care and supplies to those affected. Telemedicine was implemented as a care option for those unable to travel. Supplies like masks, rapid tests, thermometers, oxygen tanks and heart rate monitors were also provided to help serve the care needed during the pandemic.  DALE’s Executive Director, María Eugenia Castro, noted the partnership between Dole and the foundation has ensured that even during the pandemic, “we not only continued a running business, which guaranteed thousands of jobs, but above all, protected the health and safety of our workers and their families.”

Since launching in 2001, the foundation has recorded 1.8 million health interventions and currently funds 18 medical facilities staffed by nurses, doctors, dentists, and pharmacists. In some cases, vans serve as mobile medical units that travel to remote villages, delivering care that previously may not have been available and helping to alleviate wait times at existing medical facilities. The vans also provide emergency assistance during catastrophic events such as hurricanes and floods.

Eugenia Castro shared “For many of the communities that Dole serves, the DALE foundation is the only social service they can count on since most do not have access to local health services.  DALE has become an effective alternative to help improve the quality of life of our workers and the communities where we live.” These services are provided to Dole’s agricultural workers and their families, as well as others in the community who need medical care.

Expanding Opportunity through Education

The DALE Foundation’s first project in 2001 was to construct the Vicente Piedrahita School in the Los Rios province in Ecuador. Construction of a second school, Ecuador País Amazónico, in the Guayas province was funded six years later. The foundation also supports other schools by providing infrastructure improvements, health and nutrition programs for students.

Farmer Francisco Fiestas Ramirez, who grows organic bananas in the Piura region of Peru, said the foundation funded improvements to his community’s primary school, including bathroom facilities and a water tank that holds and supplies safe, drinkable water. He said that previously, many students failed to finish primary school, and few went on to secondary education.  “Now,” he said, “things are changing".  Prioritizing school improvements and helping provide students with a safe and secure environmental for learning is one of the basic needs that help set a path for future success. 

Continuing to Move Forward

Even after 20 years, the DALE Foundation continues to explore opportunities to expand its reach and resources. Currently, the foundation is focused on its next goal: Extending these critical programs and support across the broader Latin American region within the next four years.

We feel encouraged by the progress made in Ecuador and Peru but understand there is a long way to go. As we look to increase the reach to different countries in Latin America, we also want to better understand and help influence other topics in these countries that will benefit the quality of life for families and positively impact the environment and people’s wellness and resilience.

Here at Dole, it’s our mission to provide consumers with nutritious, responsibly grown produce while improving the lives of individuals across our business. We want to recognize and give thanks to the shoppers and everyday consumers for their part in this important journey. Every time you eat a banana, choose a DOLE® Banana where a portion of banana sales fund investments for banana workers and their families across Latin America.

 

DALE by the Numbers

 

Published February 1, 2022

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