Flower farming wrecking environment

Forgot to buy a loved one flowers this Valentine's Day? Well it seems there's a perfect excuse - growing roses is often bad for the environment and exploits workers in developing countries.

A new campaign launched on the most romantic day of the year – when flower sales surge – seeks to highlight the real cost of roses, focusing on the case of a Kenyan lake where intensive farming is playing havoc with the local environment.

For decades Lake Naivasha has supplied the water for industrial-scale flower farms which grow roses and other decorative plants for the European market.

The impact of agro-industry in the area has seen biodiversity plummet, water levels drops and pollution soar as pesticides are washed into the lake.

Workers are given no protective equipment and are also exposed to the sprays designed to keep the bugs away from the flowers, which must be blemish-free to command top prices.

The plight of the lake has become the chosen cause of NGOs half a world away – the Council of Canadians and the US-based Food & Water Watch.

“On this Valentine’s Day, it’s important that we finally stop these international operations from depleting the lake’s waters, poisoning the surrounding environment with pesticides, and exploiting workers,” said Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians.

“Unless we end this, these industrial floriculture factories will continue sowing the seeds of poverty, water deprivation, and environmental carnage.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, added: “I witnessed chemical spraying while people working nearby wore no protective gear.

“The pesticides applied on the farms and in the greenhouses eventually end up in Lake Naivasha and in the groundwater, threatening people and wildlife.”

The Council of Canadians and Food & Water Watch will work with organisations around the world in this effort to expel the flower farms from Naivasha’s shores, urge the Kenyan government to promote small-scale agriculture and eco-tourism, and encourage consumers in Canada, Europe, and the United States to purchase local, ecologically sustainable flowers.

“These flower farms are harming people and animals alike,” said Josphat Ngonyo, director of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare, one of the organizations in the campaign. “Numerous bird and fish species are disappearing from the area and that’s a problem for the environment and the people who depend on the lake.”

The NGOs’ report on the situation at Lake Naivasha can be found by following this link.

Sam Bond

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