Flower farms management in Naivasha are now warning that they might be unable to afford salaries for their workers in the coming months as the crisis in the sector deepened due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Various farms management have however assured workers that they will receive March salaries but warned that things could change in the coming months depending on the corona crisis situation.
This came even as the government promised flower farmers support in the wake of the disease that has impacted negatively on economies globally.
Already, more than 2,000 workers have been sent on a two week paid leave by their respective farms due to the collapse of the Dutch auction which buys over 50 percent of flower exports from the country.
In the last one week, some flower farms have resorted to destroying flowers worth millions of shillings every day as the produce can no longer reach the EU market.
The Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), Mathioya Mbogo observed that the flower sector was very critical to the country’s economy adding the national government would release support incentives to the investors.
Mathioya further said that he and other senior government officers had visited the affected farms and promised them of various supportive measures from the national government.
Noting that Naivasha was home to tens of flower farms, the administrator warned that if the workers were sent home it would lead to social disorder and rise in crime in and around the town.
He appealed to the farms not to sack workers as this would lead to a major crisis.
The Proprietor Maridadi flower farm, Jack Kneppers said that they would be making a major decision this week and confirmed that they have salaries for this month but was unsure for coming months as they relied on sales to pay their workers.
“Early in the week we sent 150 workers home as we monitor the situation and nothing has changed meaning we could send more home,” said the farmer who has employed 750 workers.
He regretted that the farm was making losses running to over Sh.0.5m every day and spending all their daily collection an indication he said might force the farm to close down if things did not improve.
According to the Secretary-General Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture and Allied Workers Union (KEFHAU), David Omulama over fifteen farms had already sent part of their workers home.
Omulama said that in most cases, the employers had agreed to pay the workers their salaries in the period that they would be away as they monitored the situation.
Meanwhile, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has issued a 14-day notice to farmers and hoteliers operating around Lake Naivasha to demolish structures on the riparian land or face legal action.
According to the notice, the structures, some of which were permanent, posed a major threat to the lake’s fragile ecosystem.
“You are hereby directed to bring down the permanent structures on the riparian land which is currently covered by water within 14 days,” reads part of the notice.
The NEMA Chairman, John Konchellah said that they had identified organizations flouting the environmental rules adding that all bodies that had encroached on the riparian land had also been issued with the notice to vacate with immediate effect.
“We have issued orders for all structures to be demolished and for all eucalyptus trees around the lake to be uprooted,” he said.
While admitting that the lake was facing many challenges, Konchellah said the authority was keen to work with Nakuru county government to address most of the challenges.
He identified water hyacinth as one of the major challenges currently facing the water body and assured that NEMA was partnering with other relevant organizations to address the matter.
The NEMA Director of Environment in Nakuru, Solomon Kihiu said that among structures to be brought down included the Karagita landing beach which was constructed by the county government and questioned how the landing beaches were constructed without a license from NEMA.
The NEMA officer in charge of Wetlands, Stephen Katua identified informal settlements around the lake as the major source of pollution of the lake and challenged Nakuru county government to make sure water from their sewerage plants was fully treated before being discharged.
He identified some of the informal settlements as Kihoto, Karagita, DCK and Kamere, saying that waste from the slums was easily swept into the lake whenever it rained and called for concerted efforts to address the pollution.
By Esther Mwangi/Vivian Otieno