With it being Fairtrade fortnight, I spoke with our own Karen Barnes (Head of Floral Gifting) and Dominic Weston (Head of Food Gifting).
They have been to visit the Osarian Farm in Kenya, where Interflora sources some of its Fairtrade flowers…
When did you go to Kenya?
I went at the beginning of November 2009.
I went at the end of December 2009.
I went to see the area, the whole operation and products growing. The big thing for me is the corporate social responsibility part of it. I was really taken aback by the scale of it.
One of the big things for me is that everything provided for the workers is free. There’s free education for the children, and free housing and medical facilities. They even have their own football ground and lots of facilities such as a library. In the village where the workers live, they have their own shops and are encouraged to start their own small businesses.
The environmental side was also really interesting. They’ve got three geothermal plants there and they set up these plants to heat the water and use the excess CO2 to pump into the pot houses, because flowers love CO2.
Amazingly 30% of all of Kenya’s energy comes from a plant on their land. It goes to show that their outlook isn’t just about their workforce; it is about the country as well.
Where were you?
We flew into Nairobi then went north to Lake Naivasha.
How many people work and live in the village?
5,700 employees actually work on the farm, but they also support another 3,000 family members.
Is the workforce mainly male or female?
I would say equal
It’s a mixture of both.
The Farm is a self-contained community. There are 3 schools, a medical centre, ambulance and an ATM to encourage saving.. We had a tour of the schools, where we found the pupils to be very polite and in smart school uniforms. These uniforms are provided by the Fairtrade community.
The whole experience was humbling, I could see what a difference the premiums that customers pay for Interflora Fairtrade flowers makes, it’s such a huge difference to the people working on the farms and their families.
What sort of flowers do they grow?
In the main it is Carnations and Roses, and much more recently, Sunflowers, Spray Roses, Lisianthus, Alstromeria, Statice and several other varieties have been propagated.
What was the most inspiring thing you saw while there?
The size of the Farm and the benefits that the community receives, especially the schools..When we arrived at the farm, we were given a tour of the farm and then the schools and medical centre.
As we arrived at the school, some of the pupils were ready to stand on parade, from 6 year olds up to 11 years olds. They were so proud to demonstrate how they marched! After the tour, Interflora’s Commercial Director, Helen Quinn was asked to plant a tree in the school garden. A plaque was presented to stand alongside the tree, this was certainly a photo opportunity.
How long has Interflora been buying from this farm?
How does a Fairtrade community work?
It’s the community of the Fairtrade farmers that actually decide where they need that money to go. It’s not the Fairtrade Foundation in London who decide, it’s the community that decides.
They might, for example, decide they need a bus to pick people up or something needs doing in the school or the community and then they can take money from the Fairtrade fund.
How big is the farm?
230 hectares with the village around it.
How many stems do they grow?
14 million stems a year.
Are there other Fairtrade products in the Interflora range?
We retail food gifts. It’s quite a new thing for us but with the success of the flowers we’ve launched a couple of food hampers that have Fairtrade products in them.
What is your lasting impression of the Osarian Farm?
I think it’s one of real fairness and a lot of common sense and that it’s a really good place to live.
They operate on a 48-hour week, which is great. They pay people directly into the bank. Everyone has their own ATM card so the money is safe and won’t get stolen. It’s a nice secure way of paying people.
There’s a sports complex and soccer stadium which was recently used by the Ghanaian cup team. It also provides netball, volleyball, athletics, darts and cycling.
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