Never a rose without a prick : (Dutch) multinational companies and productive employment in the Kenyan flower sector

TitleNever a rose without a prick : (Dutch) multinational companies and productive employment in the Kenyan flower sector
Publication TypeOther
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsA. Kazimierczuk, P. Kamou, B. Kinuthia, and C. Mukoko
Series titleASC working paper
Pagination - 86
Date Published2018///
PublisherAfrican Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL)
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsemployment, floriculture, Kenya, multinational enterprises

The flower sector in Kenya accounted for over 65 per cent of new jobs created in the agricultural sector between 2010 and 2015 and remains a major employer in the country. The floriculture value chain involves a variety of players involved in activities, such as plant development and growing, providing necessary inputs, transport and handling - each of them generating a part of the direct or indirect employment. The quality of this employment is, however, less clear.
In 1978, the flowers' export volume was 3,000 tons. Since then, the sector has grown by an average of 16 per cent per year in terms of volume and 25 per cent in terms of value of production. Foreign investors and partners played a critical role in launching and expanding the floriculture industry in Kenya. Dutch companies started flower export businesses, and Dutch and Israeli advisors have been important sources of technical support. Initially, large and medium flower farms were mostly owned by foreigners, Kenyans of foreign descent or members of the Kenyan (political) elite. Kenyan smallholders were also involved in flower growing at that stage. In 2016, approximately 190 flower farms and 5,000 smallholder farmers were involved in the flower production. Today, flower growing is done predominantly by Kenyan-owned farms, while Dutch companies dominate the breeding and propagation activities. Growers provide the highest employment opportunities in the entire chain, predominantly for women, due to the labour intensive character of their operations. Breeders, propagators and other companies in the chain hire less people directly but create important indirect employment in the sector.
The support of the Kenyan government in promoting the floriculture sector was mixed through the years and was not the decisive factor in the sector development. The success of the industry is, to an extent, a result of the capacity of the private sector to develop independently from the state and the capacity to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. Following the rapid development of the sector in the mid-1990s, flower companies have been criticized for poor labour standards and a number of other abusive practices. In response to this criticism, the companies have adapted a range of international and national social and environmental standards that should lead to improved labour conditions.
This working paper's primary objective is to assess to the extent to which the flower sector and the jobs created have been sustainable, inclusive and productive; and whether there are any differences between practices and quality of employment created by the international players, particularly Dutch companies in comparison to the non-Dutch counterparts. The secondary objective is to assess and understand what are the main challenges for the companies in the flower sector to create and maintain (productive) employment, as well as other pitfalls in their day-to-day operations. For this purpose, a mixed methods approach to data collection was implemented, including a sector-wide standardized questionnaire, case studies and a number of key informant interviews. This report concludes with a set of policy recommendations targeting the Kenyan government and the international community.

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