Kenya: Flower farm workers allegedly earn below living wage, live in poor conditions & some women sexually harassed; industry association responds

Author: Patrick Kibet & Antony Gitonga, Standard Digital (Kenya), Published on: 13 August 2018

“Why Kenyan flower farms is no bed of roses”

Like many women employed in the flower farms dotting the shores of Lake Naivasha, Njeri leaves her five-year-old daughter at a daycare centre which caters to hundreds of flower farm workers. She treks a short distance to a makeshift bus stop, where she queues with her colleagues to wait for old, smoking company buses to ferry them to work…Ms Njeri is one of 30,000 farm workers employed in more than 30 flower farms in the booming horticulture hub of Naivasha. She has been picking flowers for over a decade. “It has not been rosy; it has been a struggle especially for female workers. Despite working for over 40 hours a week, we live from hand to mouth,” Njeri laments. “I am forced to live from paycheck to paycheck and in perennial debt.”

Another staff, Joel Wafula*, speaks in a hushed tone as he narrates his 15-year experience on one of the largest flower farms in Naivasha. Although his monthly wage has grown, he says, the cost of living in the sprawling slums has skyrocketed. He says he barely able to feed his family of seven. “I live in a single room house with my family in Karagita. With my Sh8, 700 (USD 84) monthly pay, I can barely provide for my large family,” says Mr Wafula…Despite claims by farm owners of improving working conditions, the flower staff’s wages still lag behind the living wage. Women bear the brunt of this because in majority of the cases they have families to take care of on top of their own personal well-being. Pauline Ndumi* says she started working for a prime flower farm in 2003. She was fired earlier this year after a pay slip dispute. “I joined the company in 2003 as a general worker. After 14 years of diligent service, I was dismissed unprocedurally alongside hundreds of my colleagues. At that time, my monthly pay was Sh12, 000 (USD 116.50),” she says.

According to Kenya Flowers Council (KFC) Chief Executive Officer Jane Ngige, there has been improvement in flower farms in the last ten years, following new labour laws and certification standards for various export markets. “It’s true the sector’s image was tainted some years ago but this has changed drastically due to the stringent rules introduced by KFC and the consumers in Europe,” she says. 

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