Valentine‚ Day is fast approaching, and were sure that you plan on buying flowers for your sweetie. Did you every stop to think about where those flowers came from?
Turns out that industrial flower farms abound, particularly in the Lake Naivasha region of Kenya, the largest supplier of flowers to the European market. I know youve seen the recent news about the violent outbreaks in this region, and yet so many seem more concerned about the fate of the flower farms instead of the people. Go figure.
In any event, it turns out that the plethora of flower farms in the Lake Naivasha region pose a number of serious ecological problems for Kenya‚ rivers and for the lake, including loss of water, an unsustainable increase in the population because of the laborers they have attracted, and the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.
The people who made it possible for you to have those pretty flowers were more than likely low,wage workers who were exposed to pesticides in the production processes. These flower workers suffer from work,related health problems, many of which result from pesticide exposure.
The pesticides applied on the flower farms eventually end up in Lake Naivasha and in the groundwater, endangering the area‚ people and wildlife, including hippos, fish, and birds. Take, for instance, the fact that numerous bird and fish species are disappearing from the area. (Lake Naivasha used to be ‚one of the world‚ top ten sites for birds, with more than 350 recorded species.) Plant life has vanished, and the local hippopotamus population has decreased from 1,500 in 2004 to 1,100 in 2006.
We Americans may be thinking to ourselves that were really not affected by all of this. However, we have our own flower farm issues, like the demise of the Indiana cut flower industry, to contend with. This sad reality is brought to you by USAID, when they began promoting flower cultivation in Colombia as a substitute for coca production in 1965. Although these imported flowers are less expensive for American consumers, they come at a steep price to both Colombian workers and American growers.
But how do you responsibly express your love? Start with purchasing cut flowers that are both domestically and responsibly grown. Go one better by purchasing flowers cultivated by growers in your region. If you cant locate a verifiable source for domestically grown cut flowers, consider giving potted plants, instead of bouquets, as gifts. Visit the United Farm Workers of America‚ website to find nurseries that have been endorsed for fair treatment of workers.