Horticulture is a mainstay of the Kenyan economy. Flower farms are a key employer, providing jobs in areas where there are few other alternatives and ensuring a valuable source of export revenue. Around 55,000 people, mainly young women, are directly employed in the industry, while 2 million people indirectly depend on the flower industry for their livelihoods.
Flamingo Flowers, Kenya is a large-scale Fairtrade certified producer and exporter of cut flowers, vegetables and herbs. Its three major production sites at Kericho, Naivasha and Mt Kenya employ more than 11,000 workers.
Flamingo Flowers Kericho is made up of three farm units – Chemirei, Tarakwet and Lemotit – covering approximately 92 ha at an altitude of 2,000m and producing long stem roses and fillers such as leather ferns. The farms are located alongside Finlay tea estates in the highlands west of the Rift Valley.
All workers are housed on the farms where facilities include running water, sanitary facilities and kitchen gardens for the use of workers and their families. There are four nursery schools and two primary schools. Three crèches provide day care for children from three months to three years, allowing the mothers to resume work after three months’ maternity leave. Their proximity enables working mothers to breast-feed their babies during work breaks. Primary health care is provided to all workers and their families through well-equipped, well-staffed clinics.
Mount Kenya and Naivasha
Ibis and Siraji farms in Mt Kenya region produce big headed roses and lilies as well as vegetables and herbs. Flamingo and Kingfisher farms in Naivasha region produce medium size roses, carnations, fillers and vegetables. All farms have state-of-the-art packing facilities where the harvested produce is graded, chilled and prepared for export. Workers live outside the farms and commute to work in shuttle buses provided by the company.
Production and sales
Flamingo Flowers produce more than 450 million stems of cut flowers a year, mostly standard roses, as well as fillers for bouquet arrangements. They produce over 8,000 tonnes of vegetables and herbs a year, of which 5 per cent are sourced from Fairtrade certified out-growers.
Between 30 and 40 per cent of Finlay flowers exports are sold as Fairtrade. In addition to the price negotiated with buyers, these sales include a Fairtrade Premium set at 10 per cent of the negotiated price. The Fairtrade Premium is invested in projects selected by workers which benefit their families and local communities. They are managed by a Premium Committee of elected workers and management representatives who act in an advisory capacity.
A revolving loan fund for workers to purchase household items and improve their living standards, a welfare bus for community hire, a laundry facility, the running of three crèches with the capacity for over 200 children and the Tausi workers’ housing project.
Flamingo Flowers supports more than 2,000 students and pupils each year across the company. Over 20 per cent of the Premium fund has been invested in education for workers and their dependents. Kenya introduced universal free primary education in 2003 but lacked the infrastructure to fulfill it. The Premium has been used to help the government achieve this target by constructing and refurbishing many classrooms, libraries, laboratories and toilet blocks, providing desks, books and other school equipment. To increase the teacher-pupil ratio the Premium has been used to employ a few more teachers in addition to those paid for by the government.
The Premium has also been invested in the construction of classrooms, laboratories and toilet blocks for secondary schools, secondary school and university bursaries for workers’ children, and adult literacy projects, as well as part-funding the construction of new secondary schools.
Empowerment and capacity building
Training courses are organised for workers to improve their employment or income opportunities, such as driving skills, IT, hairdressing, and accountancy. Capacity building programmes have empowered women to become chairpersons of Fairtrade Premium committees and take up careers in male-dominated spheres such as electrical engineering.
Annual typhoid and Hepatitis B vaccination campaigns.Purchase of modern diagnostic equipment including x-ray and ultra sound machines for the community hospital and contributions to the Naivasha Women’s Healthcare Centre. HIV/AIDS programmes have helped reduce cases and support those living with the disease. Distribution of mosquito nets to workers in malaria prone areas. Supporting physically challenged children by providing specialist equipment and reconstructive surgery and supporting two homes for people with disabilities.
Solar panel project to provide an alternative to the unreliable rural electricity system. Provision of gas cookers as an environmentally friendly alternative to charcoal and firewood. Reforestation: planting more than 5,000 indigenous trees at various locations in Naivasha in partnership with Kingfisher tree nursery. Contributions to fencing of forests to reduce encroachment and human/wildlife conflict.