Who’s protecting Lake Naivasha?

by Julie Ardery

Lake Naivasha is at the center of Kenya’s flower production, but now, despite a self-regulating flower council, the lake’s fish are dying. Can the industry adequately police itself?

Kenya’s flower industry, after years of success that have induced many other African nations to jump into floral production, took a big hit last year. According to the East African, income in this sector was down a third last year. Flower council chief Jane Ngige reports that for “the first time in close to 20 years, the flower industry has registered negative growth.”

East africans

Photo: The East African

In the past month there’s been more bad news, the mysterious die-off of more than 1000 fish in Lake Naivasha, where the flower farms are concentrated. Both Kenyan environmentalists and now the national authorities are focussing their investigation on several flower farms, which many say have been flouting standards and polluting the lake.

From what we can tell, the flower industry is completely self-regulated in Kenya, an arrangement that has served many law-abiding farms—and their employees—well. Most Kenyan flowers sell in Europe, where there’s strong demand for produce—including flowers—that’s responsibly grown and traded. But Europe’s flower sales have steeply declined during the 18+month global economic downturn: this blotch on the reputation of Kenyan flowers couldn’t come at a worse time. As well as the health of the lake, there are a reported 500,000 jobs at stake in Kenya’s horticulture sector.

The Kenyan growers association hopes to protect its system of self-regulation (see Ngige’s editorial), but that system seems to have failed. As a native Kentuckian who’s seen what happened when coal operators policed mining, we have to ask, could the Kenyan government—or some other more independent authority—do better? Would it do better?

This article has been reprinted with full permission from Julie Ardery, a writer  and editor in Austin, Texas, who began the Human Flower Project  in May 2004. The website is an exploration of global cultures with an archive of thousands of short essays and images. Each is, in part, a reflection of how the human race has coexisted with flowers: in ceremony, science, politics, medicine, foodways, and art. Julie, a Ph.D. in sociology, also edits the Daily Yonder , a webzine about issues in the rural U.S., with her husband, journalist and author Bill Bishop.


Further links you may be interested in:

Daily Nation: Why fish are dying in L. Naivasha

The Ecologist: Behind the labels: cut flowers

“It seems clear from the larger body of scientific reports that the environmental destruction that is inherent with the volume of cut-flowers produced in places like Lake Naivasha is neither improving quality of life nor protecting the environment for local people. In the face of this, a lower carbon footprint for shipping roses to the UK seems almost irrelevant.”

Roots – Where do flowers come from :  Video with stunning artwork on the effects of pesticide use on the flower growers of Africa.

Poisoned flowers : Columbia  Video showing appalling conditions for workers

Squidoo: Why you should buy organic flowers


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Posted by on May 28 2010. Filed under Sustainable Agriculture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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