Kenya Airways and KEPSA initiative to ‘rescue’ flower farms
Desperate times call for desperate measures, goes the adage. It is in that spirit that the national carrier, Kenya Airways, and Kenya Private Sector Association launched an initiative to try to save flower farms and their workers during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

The two teamed up with Kenya Flower Council to come to the aid of the badly hit floriculture sector by launching and implementing the Flowers of Hope Initiative in the United Kingdom.

The historic initiative had three objectives: to support the flower farms in the country by promoting donation of fresh-cut flowers to local public hospitals; entrench Kenyan flowers as a leading brand, and to partner with KQ to export some of the produce to Europe and beyond during the over two-month-old lockdown.

By so doing, said KEPSA Chief Executive Officer, Carol Karuga, some of the hundreds of jobs, majority of these being women, which were on the line, were expected to be spared.

Most of the mega flower farms are in Nakuru, Kiambu, Muranga, Laikipia, Uasin Gishu, Machakos, Nairobi and Kajiado counties.
In 2015, United States (US) based Cables News Network (CNN) International, referred to Kenya as: “the flower garden of Europe,” because of being the third leading exporter globally and garnering approximately 35 percent of all sales to the giant lucrative European Union market.

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In March 2020, the KEPSA-KFC initiative was launched at Kenyatta National Referral Hospital, Mama Lucy Hospital and the Spinal Injury Hospitals, all in Nairobi, and in some of the 47 counties, where patients, caregivers and medical staff were given fresh-cut flowers while others received bouquets as a sign of love and appreciation.

Later in mid-April, Kenya Airways airlifted 300 bouquets to the UK, which were distributed to doctors and nurses on the frontline of fighting Covid-19, recovering patients and care homes.

Most of the flowers are grown around Lake Naivasha in Nakuru County. It is estimated that 1,200 hectares is under flower cultivation in the country, with 70 percent (840 Ha) under roses alone.

Others include the Mount Kenya region and the following counties: Nairobi, Machakos, Muranga, Kericho, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia.

Before the pandemic, some 150,000 people were employed directly and over 500,000 people benefited indirectly through the value chain from this industry. Over 60 percent of these are women.

The consignment was dispatched under the Flower of Hope campaign, an initiative mooted at a presidential roundtable and implemented by KEPSA in partnership with its members as a uniting symbol in Kenya and the world in response to Coronavirus crisis.

A special waiver was given by President Uhuru Kenyatta, as officially the ban on all international flights except emergency and cargo planes, was still in force.

Other partners of the initiative are Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Elgon Kenya.

According to the Karuga: “Our member, Kenya Flower Council, has done this to show empathy and this shows a strong message of partnership at this time when many countries are facing difficulties.”

Karuga says the Flowers of Hope Campaign was informed by the realities brought forth by the adverse effects of the pandemic locally and globally.

“The UK dispatch was the first international distribution, an important symbol as London is one of Kenya’s biggest market for fresh-cut flowers. It was also a show of gratitude and support for the people at the forefront suffering from Covid-19, and was expected to also help in saving thousands of farm jobs in Kenya’s farms.”

The latest records from Kenya Flower Council show that exports of the fresh cut flowers to overseas markets had taken a nose dive to 35 percent of what would be expected at this time of the year.

Indeed, most business has been driven by the European and UK markets, where sales have declined to almost zero in the past three months of the crisis. COVID-19 has hit hard countries on this continent. Measures taken in these countries make it difficult to sell flowers in this market.

Flowers of Hope Campaign is expected to help the country recover from the impacts of COVID-19 as Kenyans friend stands with the country as it walks the recovery path.

Says Kenya Flower Council CEO: “These are Kenyans showing their love through what Kenya does best, flowers. By donating these flowers, we are motivating people as well as preserving thousands of jobs”

This article was originally published in the Kenyan Woman Newspapaer. Click here to read the original article

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