Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day

The day of hearts and roses has finally arrived. While Cupid himself has not yet made a diapered appearance you can tell that it’s V-Day just by watching the booming business that the roadside flower vendors are doing. It would seem that there are a lot of ladies in Nairobi who are about to receive a dozen Kenyan-grown roses from their loving husbands.

And the British government hopes that you will too!
Love Kenya roses, romantics urged

Valentine's Day romantics planning to say it with flowers are being urged to buy roses from Kenya to help the troubled country.

The UK government says buying flowers from developing countries creates jobs and reduces poverty.

A recent study indicated roses flown to the UK from Kenya produced fewer emissions than roses grown in Holland in heated greenhouses.

But campaigners say some workers suffer long hours in poor conditions.

"Everyone can make a difference on Valentine's Day including to the lives of Kenyan farmers who, given the current political crisis in the country," International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said.

"They have been working so hard in such difficult conditions to ensure their flowers reach the market in time for 14 February," the minister said.

Several hundred people have been killed in Kenya since December. Ethnic and political violence began after the disputed Presidential elections.

'Workers exploited'
Poverty campaigners argue some workers picking and packing flowers are being exploited.

"Our focus is on workers on these farms, mainly single mothers, who in the run-up to Valentine's Day work up to 14 hours a day," War on Want's Paul Collins said.

"They receive a wage that is not enough to pay for housing and healthcare," he said.

He urges British shoppers to buy roses with a Fairtrade label for their loved one, to help ensure workers receive better pay.

Growing industry
However, the Department for International Development said the average wage amongst Kenyan flower workers was £45 a month, well above the £25 minimum wage.

Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are crucial to Kenya's flower-growing industry. It makes more money in February and March than the rest of the year combined.

The sector employs 100,000 Kenyans directly and an estimated 2 million indirectly, according to the Kenya Flower Council.

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