Flower farms in Kenya have been known for horrific stories of exploitation and modern slavery among their labour force. Every time, wretched workers are seen protesting poor working conditions and lack of pay.
But for Maasai Flower Farm, tucked deep into the armpits of Kajiado County, the story sounds different.
The farm which has a total work force of 1,500 workers has realised that during these tough economic times, it cannot pay its workers enough to sustain a respectful livelihood, and has decided to teach them a new form of earning a living – bee keeping. The farm’s managing director Harun Koimur says while Maasai flowers strive to give its workers a yearly pay rise, it became imperative to find a way that would help the workers sustain themselves.
“Kajiado is an area that is traditionally known with bee keeping. Most of our workers keep bees in their homesteads, only that they are not aware of modern bee keeping methods. That is what we decided to teach them as part of our community social responsibility,” Mr Koimur says.
He noted that last year, they made an agreement with one of their major flower customers, a German company named Blume 2000, that would finance the training of workers in bee keeping. “We approached Blume 2000 while on an European trip last year who agreed to finance the venture. Apart from Blume, we also convinced African Bee Keepers to support us by providing equipment for the training. The training will take six months beginning next month.”
One of the workers set to benefit from the endeavour is 42 year Evans Asuma. Mr Asuma is the chairman of the local chapter of the Kenya Plantation Agricultural Workers Union.
He has been working in the farm for the last five years. “For some time now, I have been striving to supplement my income from the farm and I haven’t had much options. But this bee keeping venture will surely open a new chapter in my life,” Asuma says. “My family has lived in Kajiado for years and tried bee keeping without much success. If I can be equipped with modern tips of proper bee keeping, then that will change.”
Koimur urges flower farms to find ways of helping workers earn extra income in the face of dwindling returns in the global flower market.
“We in the flower sector are facing a lot of competition, especially from Ethiopia in the lucrative European market. We cannot afford to pay workers as much as we should. But that should not keep us from finding other ways of helping them make an income,” Koimur avers.