By MURIMI GITARI
January 10,2019, Nairobi. Established in the year 2005, Fairtrade Africa has changed the livelihoods of flower farm workers and impacted much to communities by having projects that are of beneficial to them.
This is through flower farms that fully comply with the standards of Fairtrade and are certified. Communities within Naivasha region are the most beneficiaries of these projects due to the fact that many flower farms in Kenya are located within the region.
This has seen many people get employed in the farms which come with benefits of premiums that are made by the farms. Bigot flower farm, located in Naivasha along Nairobi-Nakuru highway is one of the farms that complies with Fairtrade Standard and got certified, an achievement that makes them get exclusive markets for their products.
This means that 40 percent of their total production goes to Fairtrade markets in Europe.The farm signs contracts with the markets a guarantee of selling their products as it shows the volume of stems to be sold and the prices.
In every stem sold there is an added extra 10 percent of the actual price per every stem by the buyer which is a premium that goes directly to the flower farm workers. Charity Opon, the Human Resource Manager at Bigot Farm says that these premiums are not part of the wages or salaries that the workers receive as payment as there are guidelines stipulated by Fairtrade on the usage of the premiums.
Workers have a one account where these premiums are deposited within a maximum of 45 days and a minimum of 15 days after the selling of products. They have committees that direct them on projects to put up or how they are going to use the premiums. Some of these projects is issuing of school bursaries to the worker’s children, economic projects, and community projects and having programs that are of benefit to workers.
Through the premiums, she says, Bigot farm pays 90 percent annually of total school fees of the employee’s children in secondary and in higher learning institutions both in public and private schools.
This money is a big benefit to them as they are not required to refund back making it easier for them to educate their children without any kind of difficulties. Employees who also want to further their education also benefit from these premiums where they are issued in two categories of those undertaking short term courses and those in colleges. “The farm pays all the fees but recover 40 percent of it from their salaries in flexible installments of up to 36 months,” Charity explains.
The amount paid for their children is not recovered in anyone’s salary. In average 450 students benefit from these bursaries annually with 380 students in secondary schools in this year while 70 in colleges and universities benefited.
The farm also supports a children’s home in Naivasha by giving them bursaries, clothes and food items. Esther Nyambura Juma, a worker in the farm explains of how she became a beneficiary of these premiums when she joined the farm in the year 2012 and joined college in 2015 to pursue a diploma in Information Technology that made her get promoted from a casual worker and now in the position of a recording and analyzing of production data within the farm.
“Fairtrade has really changed me as I have been able to further my education and even go abroad in Germany to campaign for it and market for Fairtrade products,” Esther says. She adds that Fairtrade has really impacted much to her and to the community at large and believes if it were not for Fairtrade she would be still the same when worked as casual for she never earned much.
There are economic projects from the premiums that include homes improvement of workers where they take short term courses and apply for equipment after completion of the courses for them to start their businesses in line with Fairtrade objectives.
The money used to buy these equipments is deducted from their salary in 48 months (4 years) installments. The workers who wish to start businesses are also given loans with an interest free rate acting as a microfinance agent.
They are also helped to build houses at their homes by getting materials from the farm which usually happens in September of every year at Bigot flower farm. In this farm the workers have been able to purchase a 72 seater bus that the farm hires for transportation of workers daily and afterwards get paid by the end of every month. All the drivers in the farm were trained through the Fairtrade premiums.
The premiums have been used in community projects that include building of classrooms in primary and secondary schools, construction of laboratories, donation of desks, tree planting and water tanks for schools and communities.
This is done in both remote areas in the villages and also in towns. In the past 5 years Bigot farm has been able to build 8 classrooms, 2 laboratories and a total of 36 pit latrines in public schools. Each classroom is built with an estimate of between ksh 800,000 and 1 million with the construction and equipping of laboratories ranging between 1.8 and 2 million. Donation of desks is done in every 2 years whereby in last year the farm donated 500 desks in 10 public schools with every school getting 50 desks. A modern state of the heart maternity hospital, ‘Friends of Naivasha Women’s hospital,’ was also built by all certified Fairtrade farms in Naivasha with the premiums a project that was started 5 years ago which is currently owned and managed by the county government of Nakuru.
It is the biggest project done by all the certified flower farms in Naivasha. The farm has a wellness program that caters for people living with HIV/AIDS that is fully funded by the Fairtrade premiums. They have a clinic within the farm that take care of the affected employees. Currently the farm has 42 people who are beneficiaries of this program.
The wellness program which has its own package has helped in reduction of absenteeism is search of medication. Due to counseling done in the farm these people do not receive any kind of stigma from their fellow workers.
The program has attracted other non-governmental organizations that care for the treatment of workers.