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British MPs back Kenyan flowers

NAIVASHA, Kenya, Mar 31 – Six British Members of Parliament on a tour of Kenya and Tanzania have pledged to support Kenyan flowers in their country.

The MPs who toured Oserian Development Company to see its sustainable practice and use of geothermal energy to power its operation said they were impressed by the work.

Speaking after the tour, Production Director Hamish Ker, said the competition in the European market had intensified with the global financial crisis.  Growers in those markets were feeling increasingly threatened by Kenyan flowers, long popular for being "grown under the sun".

"Kenyan flowers use far less energy and create much less carbon than those grown in Europe because they are grown under the sun," said Mr Ker.

A 2007 study by Britain\’s Cranfield University found that despite the carbon emitted by shipping Kenyan flowers to Europe, the "grown under the sun" advantage made Kenyan Roses more environmentally friendly than those grown in Europe.

The researchers established that the emissions (including air freight) were 5.8 times lower than for European Greenhouse produced Roses.

The MPs who were led by Malcolm Bruce, the Vice-President of the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment said that contrary to reports that flower farming was only benefiting a few, the industry had actually helped to improve the lives of the local communities through job creation which has a snowball effect to Kenyan economy.

Moreover, farms like Oserian which sell their flowers under the Fair-trade regime have been able to construct schools and boreholes and provide vocational training both to the local community and staff and their dependants. Fair-trade funds are administered by a joint body consisting of employees and management.

Mark Hendrick, one of the MPs on the trip observed that Oserian was a role model for sustainable global agriculture, adding that its flowers were produced ethically and under stringent environmental conditions.

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Oserian generates its own power and heat from geothermal energy and houses the largest geothermal heated greenhouse project in the world.  It conserves an 18,000 acre wildlife sanctuary and game corridor with the funds generated through its flower trade.

Mr Ker however admitted that Oserian\’s exemplary environmental practices should not be misconstrued to mean all users of the lake were sensitive to the environmental realities around the lake.

 He said though that through the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association and the Lake Naivasha Growers Group many users were becoming compliant and adopting good agricultural practices.

"Certainly, we believe that our practices will be replicated by other stakeholders around here. Ultimately the lake is a lifeline for the entire local and Kenyan economy," he said.

The other MPs on the trip included Hugh Bayley, the MP for York, Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield, Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, and Marsha Singh, Bradford West.

Oserian exports over 400 million cut flowers per annum into mainland Europe. It employs 5,700 people.

The farm sits on 4,700 acres of Kenya\’s Great Rift Valley, around the Lake Naivasha region.  It is set at an altitude of 6,200 feet and 80 km south of the Equator.

Its key crops are Roses, Spray and Standard Carnations, Statice, Lisianthus and Gypsophila.

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