Life in a farming community.
I work 6 days a week, Friday to Saturday. My work starts from 7am when I get to work till 3:40pm with a one hour break from 1pm for lunch. My day starts at 6:30am. I have my own motor bike which I use to get to work and go back home every working day. I am a quality controller (QC). My job entails keeping records of the flowers. I brand the stock, take count of rejected and discarded flowers from the grading room, note down reasons for the rejection e.g. pests and diseases. I also do grading performance for each grader in order to know the quantities that each grader has graded.
Impact of Covid
I had started a second hand clothes retail business for my wife before corona hit. Most of her clothes were imported from China. When covid was confirmed in Kenya, the government banned importation of second hand clothes from China. This made it difficult to get clothes for selling and she was forced to close the business.
Initially, we would fill our company buses when coming to work or going back home. Nowadays buses carry half their capacity in order to exercise social distance. We were also asked to take two weeks unpaid leave for two consecutive months. Surviving on half pay was difficult since I am the breadwinner in my family. I have one child who is enrolled in school at kindergarten level. I would pay rent then be left with almost nothing to buy food for my family. We pleaded with the management and they were kind enough to stop the unpaid leave and resumed paying full salaries.
Impact of Fairtrade
Fairtrade Premiums have been beneficial to me and my family. My college fees and that of my wife has been paid using the Premiums. We also get loans from the Premiums. During the pandemic, we pleaded with Fairtrade and they thought it best to buy food for the workers using Fairtrade Premiums. JZ Flowers, one of our customers also sent a monetary
donation which was used to buy food for the workers.
Before joining FairVoice, I was informed that it will be an initiative for reporting about the effects of covid in the community. I decided to join the program because of my interest in Fairtrade. FairVoice has increased our visibility in the community. Back then it would be impossible to get usable information from the community without the knowledge we got from FairVoice. FairVoice trainers guided us on how to gather and collect information. At the end of the project we all got certificates. Of all the stories I did, I’d say my best was when I reported how the pandemic was affecting my community. I shared about my wife’s business which was thriving before the pandemic started but had to close due to lack of clothes to sell.
I also shared about a friend who had a business that collapsed during the pandemic. These two stories really touched me.
Message to the UK public
I’d like to appreciate our customers for their continued support. I urge them to buy more flowers in larger volumes for us to get more Premiums. At the moment we only sell flowers that are 50cm high through Fairtrade. It would be better if we were able to get market for flowers that are 40cm in height. This would ensure that we get more premiums which in turn would benefit the workers and the community. We also support the community through Fairtrade Premiums. Recently, we bought food stuffs for a nearby children’s home. We’ve also built classrooms and bought desks for some schools using the funds. We will be able to
do more for our community if more flowers are sold through Fairtrade.
Effects of Climate Change
Some of my workmates would cut down trees in order to get firewood for cooking. To curb deforestation, we started planting trees in the community and in school. Additionally, premiums were used to buy gas cylinders for each worker to ensure they stop cutting trees for firewood.
In conclusion, I appreciate the work that Fairtrade is doing. We are now known in the community through the work that we do for Fairtrade. I would request Fairtrade Africa to organise more training sessions to educate workers and the community on what Fairtrade is and what it stands for. Lastly, I’d like to thank the management of Tulaga Flowers for their continued cooperation with the workers.