According to Fairtrade, women are responsible for growing around 60-80% of the world's food, but they often don't own the land and receive little compensation. This is even truer in the flower sector of Kenya, where women make up 75% of the workforce but still do not enjoy adequate labour rights. They face employment insecurity, excessive overtime, harassment, and safety issues.

Role of women in Kenya's flourishing flower industry

A Women Win research on women entrepreneurs in Kenya's flower industry shows that the sector is a significant foreign exchange earner, ranking third in the country's economy. Around 95% of the flowers grown in Kenya are exported, providing employment opportunities to 150,000 people, primarily women. However, the industry is predominantly male-dominated, with few women holding leadership positions.

Challenges faced by women in the sector

A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that farms managed by women produce 20 to 30% less than those managed by men, mainly due to gender-specific obstacles.

Women growers have limited land ownership, with only two out of ten owning land. Inheritance and property rights remain a challenge. Some struggle with loans and contracts without their husband's consent. Women growers struggle to borrow money due to a lack of collateral. However, 30% credit their husband's support in childcare for their success.

Moreover, 90% of women growers have felt vulnerable along the value chain due to gender. Vulnerability areas include dealing with men, negotiating prices and foreign exchange rates and maintaining a work-life balance.

Breaking gender-specific boundaries

Several women entrepreneurs in Kenya's floriculture sector have managed to overcome various challenges and achieve remarkable success. As per the research conducted by Women Win, Mary Waithera, Aoko Midiwo-Odembo, and Sharon and Nicola Karuga are excellent examples of resilience, determination, and innovation in their respective roles within the industry.

Mary Waithera is a young female entrepreneur inspired by her grandmother's success. At age 20, she pursued her entrepreneurial dreams by founding the Wilmar Flower Farm with her savings from employment. Despite facing challenges, Mary's flower business flourished with the guidance of her grandmother and the valuable resources from Wilmar. In 2021, she left her job to focus on her flower plantation business. Her ultimate goal is to expand her business and provide job opportunities in her community.

Aoko Midiwo-Odembo owns Legacy Flower Farm, a woman-owned business in Kenya. Women Win interviewed two of her employees, Anita and Benta, who love working at the farm and encourage women to work hard in their respective industries. Anita is a passionate quality controller who ensures only the finest flowers leave the farm. With an agriculture background, Benta found her calling in the flower industry and dreams of owning a flower farm. She encourages women to seize opportunities fearlessly and believes in achieving personal and professional fulfilment with dedication.

Sharon and Nicola Karuga, co-owners of Everest Flower Farm in Kenya, promote women in floriculture through community employment and training. They excel in rose cultivation and are passionate about sharing their expertise.

Sheila Mwai is a sales executive at Kikwetu Flowers, who joined the floral trade in 2021 with the support of her team. Ruth Onyango is a production supervisor who joined in 2022 and mastered rose cultivation despite facing challenges. Their vision for Kikwetu Flowers is to see it become a leading East African flower farm driven by dedication and resilience.

Initiatives to boost women empowerment

Initiatives like the Flower Logistics Africa event, taking place on March 27th at Emara Ole-Sereni in Nairobi, Kenya, will significantly impact highlighting the achievements of women in the floriculture sector.

The event will feature a panel discussion on Success Stories, focusing on women-owned flower farms in Kenya. Lina Jamwa-Musibi, KFC's Membership, Advocacy, and Communications Manager, curated this session. Such events provide a platform to showcase success stories and address systemic barriers, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable industry.

Vision for the future

As Kenya's floriculture sector continues to evolve, there is growing recognition of the invaluable role of women entrepreneurs. Through resilience, innovation, and determination, women are reshaping the industry and setting new benchmarks for success.

The women in the sector can unlock their full potential and benefit all stakeholders by addressing challenges and providing opportunities for growth and empowerment. But, they need training in farm management, good agricultural practices, and computer literacy to enhance communication.

Cultivating change

Women in Kenya's floriculture sector are cultivating not just flowers but change. Through their resilience, innovation, and determination, they are reshaping the industry and inspiring future women entrepreneurs. As we celebrate their achievements and strive for greater gender equality, let us recognise the invaluable contributions of women in Kenya's flourishing floriculture industry.

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