Flower farming in Naivasha is one of the major agricultural activities around the fresh water lake. This has boosted the economic activities in the Naivasha town which is also known for its leisure and conference tourism.
In Kenya, agriculture accounts for about 24% of Kenya’s GDP. It is estimated close to 75% of the population depend on farming either directly or indirectly. One of the agricultural sub sector that has grown significantly is the horticultural farming.
The horticultural in Kenya, comprising fruits, vegetables and flowers, is a major foreign exchange earner for the country. In 2014, the sector earned a total of 35.7 billion from exports.
Flower farming in Kenya
Flowers from Kenya are destined to Europe accounting for 35% of it flower market, with 66% of all flowers are exported Holland, 23% to United Kingdom and 5% to Germany and other EU countries. The local market also provides its share of the market, with flowers being sold in main urban centers by street vendors and shopping centers.
One of the major area where horticultural farming has thrived over the years is Lake Naivasha basin, which lies in Rift Valley, 90km north-west of Nairobi. Most of flower farming in Naivasha is done around Lake Naivasha, the largest fresh water lake in the country, covering a surface area of 160 square kilometres. A total number of 4450 ha around the lake is covered by irrigated farming, with flower farms occupying a total of 1900 hectares, with 1200 hectares under green house farming.
These flower farms now account for 70% of all Kenya’s flower exports. It is estimated the Naivasha flower farms have employed about 25,000 people directly and benefits approximately 500,000 indirectly. There are both large and small flower farming around Lake Naivasha.
Flower farms in Naivasha
One of the farms is the Oserian flower farm, the oldest cut-flower farm in Naivasha the started in 1969 on a 5ha as a vegetable farm. It gradually evolved into a horticultural farm by 1982 to become the one of the largest flower producers in the country.
The Elpis farm is a 60 acre floriculture farm, with a full run rate of almost 50 million stems per annum. The farm produces flowers, consisting of Hypericum, Ammi, Solidago, and Bupleurum. It Started in June 2013, and currently employs more than 130 people.
Finlays flower farm in Naivasha, which also has flower farms in Mt.Kenya and Western region, produces added-value flowers that mainly consist of roses and lilies.
Bilashaka farm is a subsidiary of Zuurbier & Co from Holland. Currently, the company employs over 500 people on its 29ha flower farm. It mainly exports its flowers under registered names such as rosalie, taiga, blushing Akito,almanza, ashanti and more.
There are major challenges facing flower farming around lake Naivasha regarding agricultural sustainability, health risks, social accountability, and environmental conservation. One problem is the excessive water abstraction – the flower farms have continuously been in conflict with local communities like the Maasai’s who have accused the farms of obstructing water for their live stock. The is also the destruction of riparian areas by farms who do farming close to the lake and who use intensive pesticides, and when swept into the lake puts the lake’s biodiversity at risk. There has also been significant reduction of fish population in lake Naivasha.
Lake Naivasha basin was designated as a wetland according under the Ramsar Convention and both the national and the county governments need to come up with a laws that defines the maximum allowable water abstraction from the lakes to avoid overuse. Encouraging more use of greenhouse cultivation, which use less water and controlled pesticides. Prevention of vegetation destruction along the river banks and prohibition of cultivation on areas that are in close proximity to the lake, and imposing excess charges on farms that release chemicals in to the environment.
In addition to the flower farming in Naivasha, other areas that also grow flowers are Kinangop, Eldoret, Limuru, Kiambu, Nakuru, Mt. Elgon, Kitale, Athi Plains, Thika, Kericho, and Mt. Kenya region.