BY NICHOLAS AMBANYA
January 10,2019,Nairobi.An article published in a Kenyan daily titled ‘Blooms of Death,’ was done with the motive of painting the flower industry in Kenya and also internationally, in total disregard of the efforts that have been put in place with notable progress in management of the industry. We have done so much; other countries in the world admire our sector and are routinely coming here to see how we do our business.
Having been in the industry for the last 21 years, I can say without fear of contradiction that the health and safety aspects of workers has been prioritized and improved over time. Reading the said article, one would be excused to think we are still in the 90s!
The report was therefore a total misrepresentation of facts and a grossly inaccurate picture of our industry as we have it today. The practices of the industry, captured in the various codes published in the KS1758 ( Kenya Standards 1758 Flowers and Ornamentals) unveiled two years ago, are regulated and audited at national and international levels leaving no room for monkey business.
Besides, the standards are supported by the strongest workers unions in Kenya that work hand in hand with farms to implement the laid down procedures. Over the last couple of years, agrochemical manufacturers have been improving and continuously developing crop protection products that are safer for people, environment and beneficial insects.
The industry is regularly releasing new molecules and formulations, as well as training users on safety and modes of application to stymie resistance. The agrochemical industry globally is highly regulated due to the poisonous nature of its products and potential to jeopardize Blooms of hope and future crop protection if not used as per specifications.
There are zero chances workers in a flower farm in Kenya can be exposed to agrochemicals, and if there are any, these should be reported and possibly banned from the industry. The laws and regulations are very clear on this.
Export permits and certification are based on rigorous costly checks by regulators and Kenya has one of the best certifications firms – the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service ( Kephis). In addition, new pests and diseases emerge forcing the agro science firms to research on new ways of tackling the threats.
This is by no means an easy task and solutions can come long after the pests and diseases have wreaked untold havoc in crops. A recent case in point is the invasion by the Fall Army Worm, the Maize Lethal Necrosis Virus and the Tuta Absoluta.
At Magana Flowers, I take personal responsibility for the safety of workers and this is a well known practice .The products from the industry exported to Europe, Australia, Middle East and other parts of the world undergo a constant test at the ports for standardization and safety measures. If indeed there was widespread malpractices, flower farm managers and the industry at large would be up in arms.
If the Blooms of Death came from mandated authorities as an attempt to caution the industry that all is not well, I would take it very seriously. As it were, my best response, and I believe I speak for my colleagues, ignore it.
Message to the media, the media should seek facts from authorities or institutions for verification before publishing reports that are to demean or affect the economic status of flower farming. No sane flower farm at this time and age can be doing what has been reported.
Safety measures in the flower farms Championing for workers’ rights and ensuring their safety is a key issue as without them then there is nothing like flower farming. After chemicals are sprayed to the flowers in the greenhouses by the word of them being not harmful or a threat, 12 hours have to lapse before any worker is allowed to enter the green house. Blood tests are also made to monitor if the there is any way the blood comes into contact with the chemicals.
This is done in every 3 months and costs the flower farms especially the Magana Flower Farm heavily for these medical checkups. From these medical checkups there has been no case of health issues originating from the use of chemicals in the flower farms and would therefore condemn the report in the strongest terms and way possible. The flower industry in Kenya has come from far and the progression realized so far assures the industry blooms of hope and future.