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Flower workers receive Sh8mn aid to cushion against effects of coronavirus

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 7- At least 7,500 flower workers in Kenya are set to receive Sh8 million in the form of food packages and mobile money transfers in order to survive occasioned by the coronavirus.

The aid by civil society groups and under Hivos East Africa and the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) is a move aimed at cushioning the staffers who are facing reduced income owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the gradual rebound in the sector on increased exports following reduced restrictions, the majority of the workers remained unemployed at home.

Majority of the staffers were in April and May sent home on paid and unpaid with seasonal workers fired.

Hivos East Africa reveals that many of them have been struggling to put up a meal on the table.

 “We have been implementing projects with the flower farms under our Women at Work programme which advocates for good working conditions for workers in horticulture. It is only prudent for us to extend some support to the workers in this extraordinary period,” said Hivos East Africa’s Regional Director, Mendi Njonjo.

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) revealed that horticulture exports declined by 14.2 percent in April.

“Since then, flower exports have recovered, reflecting increasing demand from key export markets with easing of restrictions and containment measures, and increased cargo space volumes between July 1 and 19 2020 were 80 percent of volumes in July 2019,” noted the bank in a statement last month.

The flower industry is also one of the largest employers in Kenya where the sector employs over 200,000 workers directly in farms.

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A study by Hivos on the effects of Coronavirus on women working in horticulture showed that the majority of workers were struggling to buy food and worried about the loss of income.

Even as COVID-19 effects continue to ravage, Hivos believes that it’s important to include human rights, such as protection of the vulnerable and respect of human dignity to not only curtail the spread of the virus but also cushion and safeguard women workers who stand to be the most affected by the pandemic.

“The flower industry is also one of the largest employers in the Kenya. The industry has an immerse pool of highly skilled labour” says Clement Tulezi, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Flower Council.

“Workers are the backbone of the flower industry. KFC is delighted that this a simple gesture to demonstrate how much workers are valued and their contribution appreciated.”

The Agriculture and Food Authority reported that Kenya’s earnings from horticulture exports, including flowers, fruits and vegetables, fell 7 percent in 2019 to Sh142.72 from Sh154.7 billion in 2018, mainly due to lower prices of flowers at the auction in the Netherlands. The flower sector is expected to bounce back once restrictions around the globe on COVID-19 are lifted.

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