Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Kenya’s Flowers of Evil

Three stories describe the flower fields that are poisoning Kenya’s water and maiming its workers.


Field for growing ornamentals being treated with Methyl Bromide, Naivasha, Kenya

Photo: FAO

Where did your flowers come from?

These stories will force you to start asking and keep asking. The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) describes blinded workers, dead hippos, and slums—all the results of a flower industry that’s lapping up profits at an exorbitant human price.

“The half blind men, the hairless women and the many others with scars on their faces, hands and other parts of the body” are workers in the flower fields of Karagita. Some 50,000 laborers from the Sudan and all over Kenya toil on flower farms here, making Sh 140 a day (that’s $1.85 USD). We’ve read a number of shocking stories but this one is ENOUGH. Flower buyers simply can’t look the other way anymore, decorating the dinner table while workers on another continent are burned by pesticides and animals die drinking out of poisoned lakes.


Processing roses for $1.85 a day, Naivasha, Kenya

Photo: Silent Media

Kenya now supplies 25% of Europe’s flowers. In the chase for profit, even the farm owners can’t get along, and working conditions have become so outrageous, The Financial Times has spoken up. The soul of effete gardening, Robin Lane Fox voiced concern, and then of course smugness. “I had always thought of (flowers) as much more innocent presents to a host than chocolates. Often, they may be, but I now intend to look for labelling that guarantees their source,” Fox writes, and then adds, “I never buy cut flowers. For the next three weeks, I shall be cultivating dahlias with names such as Keith’s Choice and chrysanthemums that flower early and call themselves Red Pamela. I will pick them instead, striking a dubious blow for ecological purity in Kenya and Ecuador.”

Dubious is right. Can’t get worked up about 50,000 African workers? Then how about two dead hippos. Even you, Candide, may want to support to the Fairness in Flowers program.

Posted by Julie on 08/25 at 10:40 AM
Cut-Flower TradePermalink