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The African Cut Flower Industry

Updated on January 24, 2012

The African cut flower industry brings both good and bad to the continent of Africa.

It is estimated that one in three roses for sale in Europe was farmed in Kenya.Each rose grown for the floral trade in Africa drinks 1.5 litres of water a day - it's a shame each African person doesn't get at least that as well. Not only is the African cut flower industry depleting the continent of much-needed water, the chemicals used in flower farming are running back into the few local water supplies where people are bathing and drinking. The working conditions on these flower farms are not ideal either. On a positive note, the floral industry is bringing much needed jobs, and hence money, into Africa's economy. Learn about the cut flower industry in Africa and its implications.

The Origin Of Your Flowers - Where did that bouquet come from?

We receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers and are overcome with joy. How thoughtful of someone to give us flowers. They are seen as necessary in life's most important moments: new babies, weddings, funerals. How much do we think about where those flowers come from though?

Have you ever thought about where your flowers come from?

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A Blooming Business - A documentary on Kenya's Flower Farms by Ton van Zantvoort

The Edinburgh International Film Festival responded to this documentary by saying "Its time to wake up and smell the imported roses."

"The rose means for me hard work. Having thorns in my hands with a lot of chemicals. That is what the rose means to me. Because the supervisors are harassing us. We are like prisoners. We don't have the freedom to do something."

"I know that if I worked for another farm, that would be the death of me."

"These flower farms use a lot of chemicals, pesticides and water. When it rains, all the chemicals and water find their way into this lake."

"My dream was to work for a good company. Even to drive if possible. To live good. But now, that dream is too far from reality."


Watch the clips below from Kenya's NTV news on how fish are mysteriously dying in Lake Naivasha, the local wildlife is becoming less and less common and the water levels of this, Kenya's 2nd largest lake, are receding. Many people rely on Naivasha for water as well as the fishing industry it supports. Most predominantly though, Lake Naivasha is home to many flower farms which consume vast amounts of its water and return chemically-laden liquids.

Here are the websites I've found for flower farms located in Kenya:

Are Flower Farms Taking Care Of Their Workers? - Karutari Flower Farm and Kenya's Flower Farms In General.

This piece from Citizen TV in Kenya shows film footage of a Naivasha flower farm worker wearing ripped clothing with shoes falling to bits off his feet. Karutari Flowers stressed they provide their employees with the proper protective clothing and they do not know who this "flower farm worker" on the video was. What do you think?

NTV Kenya comes back showing how Kenya's flower industry is bringing more money to the country than the tourism industry. The flower farm workers have little to show for it however.

The African Flower Sellers And Flower Farms - Bringing Money To Africa's Struggling Economies

Between 2003 and 2007, the floriculture industry value has nearly trebled, with volume increasing by nearly 67%. New opportunities within ecommerce, such as FloraHolland, are poised to send more profit directly to the flower farms themselves, eliminating the middleman. Not only will the flower farmers benefit, florists also will get better value for their money.

These market florists in Cape Town, South Africa seem to be very happy doing their Diski dance.

The Cut Flower Industry in Rwanda

Let's hope the Rwandan cut flower industry starts off on the right foot.

Floriculture is still new in Rwanda. At the time of this article, just one company, having 200 employees, exports roses to the Netherlands. Other flower farmers sell their crops on local markets, often only having an acre of farming space. Flowers grown in Rwanda include: alstroemeria, white lilies and asters. In fact, most flowers sold in Rwanda are imported from other African countries.

In 2005, the Rwanda Flower Producers Exporters Federation was established, aiming to join Rwandan flower growing cooperatives. This federation (ARPEF) created a country-wide organizational structure of 50 cooperatives containing 10 members each to monitor procedures such as local and international promotion of the flower industry.

ARPEF's strategic plan has 4 main objectives: development of a flower producers' organization; technical support for flower producers; a marketing campaign targeting Rwanda's local floral market and, the promotion of Rwanda's floral exports to European Union countries.

The availability of both a high altitude and tropical climate make Rwanda's natural conditions and climate ideal for flower production. The soil is fertile and there is low occurrence of flower diseases. The varied temperatures allow for many flowers to be grown. With a safe political and economic climate, a Rwandan floricultural industry creates an attractive investment opportunity for foreigners, bringing much needed capital into the country. In fact, the Rwandan government strongly support the development of a stronger floral industry.

Due to cost concerns, Rwanda is looking at powering its flower farms with methane gas harvested from Lake Kivu and hydro-power from dam construction on local rivers.

UNFORTUNATELY, RWANDA IS NOT PLANNING ON AN ORGANIC FLORICULTURAL INDUSTRY

7. INPUTS

The whole bulk of inputs (i.e. flower fertilizers, planting materials, flower chemicals, packing materials/equipment, greenhouses and plastics, netting and others) required for production have to be imported and obtained from many foreign companies which are not established in Rwanda at this moment.

Uganda's Cut Flower Industry

The Impact of the Cut Flower Industry on Uganda - International Labour Organisation, http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/sector/papers/uganflow/index.htm May 6, 2009

Good Labour Practices Flower in Uganda - Inter Press Service News Agency, http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=38994 May 6, 2009

Uganda's Flower Industry - Jeroen Van Der Hulst http://www.flowerwatch.com/pics_news/download/Ugandas_Flower_Industry.pdf May 6, 2009

Ugandan Tea Hybrid - New Agriculturalist Online http://www.new-ag.info/01-5/focuson/focuson5.html, May 6, 2009

Fair Trade African Flowers

Ethiopian Flower Farms

Will you be purchasing organic or fair-trade flowers in the future? - Did this lens make an impact on you?

After watching these videos and being presented with the facts on the African cut flower industry, will you be doing a little research before you make your next flower purchase?

Will you be seeking out organic and / or fair-trade flowers the next time you order flowers?

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Spread The Word About The African Cut Flower Industry

Knowledge Is Power

If you really enjoyed this lens you should nominate it for a Lens of the Day award. If it wins, this lens will be prominently displayed on Squidoo for a day. Think how many people will learn something new about that gorgeus bouquet of flowers on their desk: maybe they'll become a more conscientious shopper. Go on and make life a little better for the African continent - share this lens!

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Do you feel we should support an African flower industry to bring wealth to the nations there and provide the people with jobs? Should we boycott African flowers because of the human and environmental costs to the African continent and its people? How is the best way to bring about change for the African floral industry? Leave your ideas and opinions here.

Your Feelings on the African flower industry - Pro or con

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