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Floriculture and horticulture industries in Kenya

In Kenya, the Women@Work Campaign focus is on cut flowers and vegetable production (especially, French beans) value chains, two of the most crucial horticultural export commodities in Kenya. Flowers and French beans are produced using large scale, medium scale and small scale farming practices. According to the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), horticulture accounts for 33% of the country’s gross domestic agricultural product and 38% of national export earnings, making it one of the leading generators of the country’s foreign exchange. [1]

Since 2012, the campaign has collaboratively engaged with stakeholders  in cut flower sector. The sector plays an important role in creation of not-yet-productive, but substantial, employment in Kenya. In total, floriculture generates about 90,000 jobs directly at flower farms and about 500,000 indirectly. Through backward linkages, the floriculture industry has an impact on over 2 million livelihoods (or 5% of the Kenyan population). Over 170 companies operate in the sector including smallholder[2].  

Although the largest workforce is women (60-75%), the majority of them have limited education. This relegates women workers to the lower rungs of the workplace hierarchy, remaining unskilled and undervalued despite the number of years working on the farm, and with few prospects of career progression. Even where affirmative action policies to involve women in decision making levels are enforceable, few women are able to take up higher positions. This relative lack of viable employment,  coupled with low levels of education and awareness, leads to increased vulnerability and abuse in the workplace.

In the Kenyan horticultural sector, workers’ representation remains problematic. While growers have been accused of frustrating the right of workers to organize, trade unions have also underperformed: they often exhibit poor governance hindering their technical and logistical capacities and often pander to employers’ interests at the expense of workers, hence becoming unresponsive to workers’ concerns.

The experience from the Women@Work Campaign in Kenya over the last years has identified key labor rights challenges for women in the horticultural sector. This includes: low wages; inadequate provision for maternal health and child care facilities; poor workers’ representation; diminished decision making roles; exposure to unsafe working conditions; and sexual harassment. Labor based violations have been attributed to: poor structures of accountability in the workplace; poor legal and non-legal regulatory frameworks; and overbearing patriarchal attitudes and practices by society.

Very dynamic and vibrant, Hivos has established partnerships with six (6) civil society organizations to directly work with workers and respond to their plight and ensure their rights are upheld. Such include the Kenya Human rights commission, the Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers, Haki Mashinani, Workers Rights Watch, African Women Communication and Development Network (FEMNET), Ufadhili Trust, and the African Women and Child Feature Services. In addition, the project enlists through collaborations partnership of core business interests, including the: Kenya Flower Council (KFC); Fresh Produce Exporters Association; Agricultural Employers’ Association (AEA) and Fairtrade Africa, private horticultural farms and relevant government ministries such as the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Services.

Laws, policies, government

Sustainability certifications including Fairtrade and MPS; over the years they have worked towards promoting the welfare of women by laying down rules of engagement. The National Horticulture Policy and the HCDA Code of Conduct regulates contract farming and helps improve conditions of work. However, there are structural defects that hinder the effective regulation of labor practices through certification. The Constitution of Kenya highlights significant gains for the promotion of decent working conditions for women. It is strengthened by a strong body of laws, including the Employment Act; the Labor Relations Act; Occupational Safety and Health Act; and the Workplace Injuries and Benefits Act. However, enforcement and implementation of the law remains very weak.

 

[1] www.fpeak.org

[2] Kirigia E, Betsema G, van Westen G, and Zoomers A. (LANDac /IDS, Utrecht University) (January 2016): Flowers for Food? Retrieved from http://www.landgovernance.org/assets/20160210-LANDac_Flower-Report-WEB.pdf

 

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