Europeans often turn to a bouquet of flowers when Valentine’s Day and anniversaries roll around but many may be unaware that those beautiful blossoms were probably grown half a world away in Kenya.
The East African country enjoys a 38% share of the European Union’s market and is a billion-dollar-industry. It is estimated that nearly two million Kenyans out of a total population of roughly fifty million rely indirectly on the flower industry.
But the horticultural trade has come at a price. Ever since the industry first took off in the 1980s, many of Kenya’s rivers and main bodies of water have been affected by pollution caused by the farms that were set up to tap into the demand for flowers.
A lack of regulation and awareness about the impact of fertilisers, pesticides and sediment on the environment characterised the early years of the industry, which initially grew the flowers in open fields and did nothing to treat the water discharged by farms.