Kenya’s Leading Flower Exporter Adopts Sustainable Practices to Cope With Changing Market Demands

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Kenya’s leading flower grower and exporter, Oserian Development Corporation, is making headway in adopting recently introduced regulations for the global horticulture industry.

The firm has come up with a raft of measures aimed at maintaining production over a long period of time without compromising on natural systems or its responsibility to workers, suppliers and the local communities.

In an attempt to strengthen access to international markets, players in the flower sector trooped to Britain and the Netherlands in November 2014 to ensure sustainability in an otherwise jittery market.

It emerged that responsible cultivation of flowers in Kenya, environment stewardship and social responsibility by all players in the value chain, would enable Kenya’s flowers to be branded as responsibly grown.

Three years down the line, the reality that growers are facing a market that is increasingly getting concerned over unsustainable practices.

This emerged after supermarkets stated that they will only be sourcing flowers from growers involved in sustainable practices.

In adherence to this requirement, Oserian Development Corporation has come up with a raft of measures aimed at maintaining production over a long period of time without compromising on natural systems or its responsibility to workers, suppliers and the local communities.

As one of the largest exporters of cut roses to the European Union, Oserian has adopted a ‘champions by nature’ approach to flower growing.

The company utilises the integrated pest management (IPM) system, hydroponics to reduce water and fertilizer consumption and has the world’s largest geothermal heating project for maintaining temperature in its greenhouses and for provision of carbon dioxide (CO2) needed by the plants.

The Company has adjusted its production system to address the ongoing changes in European Union’s environmental legislation which has increased pressure on agricultural production from EU’s trade partners.

“We’re seeing developments in legislation on pesticides and bee-friendly products,” said Mr. Hamish Ker, Oserian’s Technical Director.

Speaking in early February, he added that the EU currently measures maximum residue limits (MRL) of pesticides on vegetables and fruit imports.The company has invested heavily in natural solutions.

It has launched a new outfit called Two Lakes, to develop new biological solutions through own research or by partnering with leading IPM companies.Oserian considers investing in natural solutions as a means of improving the company’s products for lowering costs. Ker said that this makes Oserian more competitive and to get better results.

“Yes, we have to invest in training on how to use these unique systems, but once you have that capacity, you find that nature’s solutions are more sustainable from all perspectives. To all intents and purposes, what you’re doing is creating a balanced ecosystem on the farm,” Ker continued.

To further reduce its carbon footprint, the company has imported seven electric vehicles from the Netherlands.

“We’re going to use them to convert our trucks from fossil fuel to electric vehicles, which we can power from our geothermal plant,” Mr. Ker explained.

“If the project goes well, we’ll see more electric vehicle use in the future.”“Green business is good business,” said Ker who added that the company hopes to save on the $500,000 it uses on diesel each year.

Oserian is the largest flower farm on the shores of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, established in the late 1960s by the Zwager family. It produces high quality flowers for export, utilizing modern technology to grow 160 hectares of roses, 40 hectares of carnations and 25 hectares of green fillers.

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