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Show Swahili

Challenges facing Kenyan flower farm workers

9th August, 2018

It is a chilly morning and Janet Njeri* joins a group of workers dressed in heavy worn-out sweaters, leaving the sprawling Karagita slum for South Lake Road in Naivasha town, 90 kilometres west of Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Like many women employed in the flower farms dotting the shores of Lake Naivasha, Njeri leaves her five-year-old daughter at a daycare centre which caters to hundreds of flower farm workers.

She treks a short distance to a makeshift bus stop, where she queues with her colleagues to wait for old, smoking company buses to ferry them to work.

Ms Njeri is one of 30,000 farm workers employed in more than 30 flower farms in the booming horticulture hub of Naivasha. She has been picking flowers for over a decade.

“It has not been rosy; it has been a struggle especially for female workers. Despite working for over 40 hours a week, we live from hand to mouth,” Njeri laments. “I am forced to live from paycheck to paycheck and in perennial debt.”

Another staff, Joel Wafula*, speaks in a hushed tone as he narrates his 15-year experience on one of the largest flower farms in Naivasha. Although his monthly wage has grown, he says, the cost of living in the sprawling slums has skyrocketed. He says he barely able to feed his family of seven.

“I live in a single room house with my family in Karagita. With my Sh.8,700 ( USD 84) monthly pay, I can barely provide for my large family,” says Mr Wafula. “The price of unga (maize meal) is high, my children can’t get good education.”

“For me, the thorns on the stems of roses will stick out longer than the rose as I please my employer and the consumers abroad as I pack the flowers. I have never celebrated working on the flower farm. It’s just a means of providing for my family,” he adds with a distant look.

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