By Winnie Maina | Tuesday Oct 17, 2017
Kenya is known to be the power house of producing flowers for the Europe market. Flowers are a major export product for Kenya and it ranks at the top with Tea bringing in very high revenue for the country. This may be the case but it has also doomed those who work in these farms to silent misery. It is unfortunate that Working conditions on Kenya’s flower farms do not always meet International Labour Regulations. The conditions in these farms are said to be hazardous and poor.
Workers who work in the green houses are exposed to Chemicals that are used to spray the flowers which are toxic to their health. This also explains why incidences of patients with strange diseases are being reported in health Centre’s around flower farms. Most of them will not speak up about the situation because of fear of losing their jobs and having no alternative to fend for their families. According to Experts from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) the most prevalent diseases caused by chemical exposure include liver problems, respiratory complications and cancer, as well as sexual incapacitation.
Dr. Mohamed Karama of KEMRI says that the severe effects of these exposures could come many years later after workers have been sacked from their jobs and that people should not work for extended hours in these greenhouses.
The government is bound by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to protect its working force from industrial excesses and abuses. According to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Beatrice Kituyi, says Kenya is on track in terms of implementing the ILO convention, though its effect might not be very eminent in the flower industry. Some unionists are optimistic that it is not a lost cause to rally for the welfare of workers in Kenya. According to KFC it has rallied its members, who are mainly large-scale flower farmers, to comply with health and environmental standards.
According to the C.E.O of KFC Jane Ngige, flower farmers are expected to follow requirements such as trade, statutory, environmental, health, safety, traceability and social standards as enshrined in the Council’s Code of Practice and the Fair Trade set of rules for a safe working environment and fair working conditions. A civil activist, Benjamin Tilapei disputes this saying that the flower council is only concerned about the rich producers and not the struggling poor working on the farms.