Ensuring sustainably produced flowers – that’s what FOSS does best

Thu, May 20, 2021

Consumers are demanding products that are safe and abide by international standards

Floriculture is the backbone of horticulture in Kenya, accounting for more than 70 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings from the sub-sector. Kenya also takes pride of place as the leading supplier of cut-flowers to the European Union.

Export markets are sensitive not only about the quality, but also sustainability of products; and producers are susceptible to multiple certifications, which renders their products uncompetitive occasioned by the cost of compliance.

To make things easier for Kenyan growers and exporters, the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the leading Business Membership Association for growers, exporters and key cut-flower and ornamentals value chain actors developed a quality and sustainability standard — the Flowers and Ornamentals Sustainability Standard (FOSS). Also known as KFC Silver, this is a unique standard and is strategically placed within the FSI basket of standards.

The FSI Basket includes 16 voluntary sustainable standards and schemes that are fully transparent.  KFC FOSS complies with all three criteria in the basket — Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Environmental and Social basic requirements.

Since 2013, the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) has enabled exchange between leading organisations and businesses in the floriculture sector on sustainability, helping them to progress on this important agenda. As a founding member of FSI, the Kenya Flower Council is part of a unique group of international front-runners who have joined forces to address sustainability issues.

FOSS is recognised in the UK, the European Union and other destination markets as a quality and sustainability certification, satisfying the requirements of entry into these markets. With each KFC audit, a flower farm gains four certifications:  FOSS Silver/ Gold; GLOBAL G.A.P FO (Option 3), GLOBAL G.A. P – GRASP (as an add-on per request), and KS 1758 Part I — Floriculture.

Sustainable Partnerships

Richard Fox, President of the international trade association Union Fleurs and Sustainability Director at Kenya’s Flamingo Horticulture, said the FOSS certification had proved essential in allowing Kenyan growers to access foreign markets. “These markets demand this certification before accepting our flowers. It is a mark of its rigour that FOSS is widely accepted in international markets with stringent quality checks and requirements for sustainable production, especially in Europe.”

Union Fleurs is an international umbrella organisation for national associations and companies active in the floricultural trade. All the major players in the floricultural trade are represented in the organisation, whose main purpose is to represent and promote the interests of traders of cut flowers, cut foliage and pot plants.

KFC partnership with Union Fleurs has been extremely important. Union Fleurs brings together players in floriculture from 20 countries around the world, in an intricate web of integrated and complex global supply chains. This reflects the nature of floriculture, whereby a single bouquet can be made of flowers obtained from several sources. With a membership of over 3,000 companies involved in the import, export, wholesale and distribution of cut flowers and pot plants, KFC gains much from its collaboration with Union Fleurs through the exchange of information, experiences, and best practice.

To further promote the standard and its impact on the international market, KFC has in addition partnered with FSI, the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP), the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), and the European Union Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) to enhance compliance within the flower industry. The standard has been benchmarked with 29 ILO Conventions, the Global Social Program, social requirements, and GLOBAL G.A.P.

“Our success stories include our work with flower farms around Naivasha, where KFC partnered with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) to implement the Integrated Water Resource Action Plan (IWRAP). This project promoted a multi-stakeholder approach to water management in Naivasha,” said KFC Chief Executive Officer Clement Tulezi.

Sustainable Production

FOSS has transformed the flower sector in Kenya by providing a platform for producers to develop systems that support operational efficiency and enhance sustainable production. This is achieved through real-time data collection and monitoring of KFC-certified farms on energy efficiency, chemical and fertilizer usage. Each member farm must periodically report on the farm utilization of resources and its adherence to set limits on usage.

Collecting data at the farm-level using the FOSS standard ensures GAP and environmental sustainability. Analysis of the data is done on five criteria: Energy, chemical usage, water, fertilizer, and biological controls.

“We adhere strictly to the stringent standards set by FOSS to ensure our produce will not face any challenges in the export markets. Auditors from KFC support us in this process and we are issued with a certificate to confirm our compliance,” said Elizabeth Kimani, General Manager in charge of Quality and Standards at the Sian Group. https://www.sianroses.co.ke/  

Emphasis is placed on the use of organic fertilizers and integrated pest management systems. Innovations in water management are encouraged, including hydroponic farming and the use of beneficial insects as a biological control to reduce the use of pesticides. Drip irrigation is promoted, as are alternative sources of power, especially renewable energy.

The standard demands that the farmer must have a waste management plan to deal with solid waste, effluent and air pollution. Efficient wastewater collection and treatment is a requirement before release to the environment. Farms that comply with the FOSS standard must make minimal use of inorganic fertilizers to prevent the eutrophication of water bodies, a process that leads to their enrichment with nutrient salts and subsequently the increased production of algae and aquatic plants as well as depletion of fish species and a deterioration of water quality.

Additionally, rainwater harvesting and limited abstraction by farms is encouraged, so is the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, biogas and geothermal energy. The use of rechargeable vehicles, non-fossil-powered rails, handcarts and donkeys to ferry flowers from harvest to pack house helps reduce carbon emission. 

Sustainable Living

The standard promotes decent work and workers welfare through ensuring salaries and benefits that are either equal to industry-negotiated CBAs or higher.

The standard does not tolerate child labour. Gender mainstreaming and equity are considered, with farms expected to provide appropriate facilities for each gender.

There is provision of healthcare that has seen farms set up clinics within their communities. FOSS also calls for support for community development through CSR activities such as the building of schools and provision of shared community boreholes.

Workers are provided with protective personal equipment relevant to their duties, with organisational safety and health a key consideration.

“In addition to the many benefits of working with us, we hire all workers permanently after only eight months. Moreover, we encourage workers to cultivate small kitchen gardens in the staff quarters. Additionally, our meals are highly subsidised. Our workers are happy with these and other measures and we have not experienced industrial unrest for years,” said Christine Shikuku, Assistant General Manager and Human Resources Manager of Tambuzi Limited, in Nanyuki, Laikipia County.  https://www.tambuzi.co.ke/

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