When I started thinking about writing an article examining the floral industry, I never imagined that I would learn so much. After I read about all the problems within this industry, I was completely carried away by the swirl of facts. So here are my questions to all of us: Have you ever thought about how many times a year you buy flowers? Where do you usually buy them from? Is it a big retailer or a smaller business? All of these questions are not meant to upset you, but to wake you to an issue that grows bigger and bigger every year.
I have never tried to guess the story that exists behind the flowers that I buy. When I became informed about the global, fresh-cut flower market I became disheartened by the situation. I took a look at the flowers merchandised all around me. I discovered that lots of the imported flowers come from countries where stories abound including bad treatment of employees, damagingthe ecosystem, destroying species of fish, birds and plants. Then I askedmyself do we have the option to choose local growers over the ones who are importing from far-off countries.
And so I embarked on a journey of discovery. Searching thoroughly, I found out that between Salt Spring Island and Port Alberni, we have a chain of farms that can provide a variety of fresh cut flowers to beautify our homes and, at the same time, nurture the island economy. They are owned and operated by people that know their land who welcome sun and rain, who feel the blessings of heaven right here on earth. Would you like to meet these kinds of people and make them your friends? Let’s just stop for a moment from hurrying and be more generous to our hearts. That means, we make an effort to locate and purchase locally grown flowers rather than allow “busyness” and convenience to dictate our choices. Are you enchanted by blushing roses or by the sweetness of oriental lilies? These treasures can be yours to take home for you toenjoy the bliss that they give.
Nowadays, when there is such a proliferation of communication and media all around the world, we know more and more about the effects of our actions on the world around us. I ask you these questions: Did we lose our compassion? Are we waiting for someone else to stand up and step up to the plate? When buying flowers let us always look for locally grown flowers, and always seek the truth behind our purchases Decide for yourself and make better choices. It is time to take action. If the twentieth century was the century of speed, let the present one be the one of enlightenment and compassion.
Although not native to Vancouver Island, Oana Luca has become mesmerized by the beauty here. She is in search of life, adjusting her steps according to inspiration from the higher power. She endeavours to engage with the things that inspire all of us to fulfill our dreams.
Additional info compiled by Editor….
BEHIND THE FLOWER INDUSTRY:
Dr. David Harper, an ecology and conservation biologist who has conducted 25 years of research at Lake Naivasha, says “Roses that come cheap are grown by companies that have no concern for the environment, who cut corners and avoid legislation, who sell their flowers into the auction in Amsterdam so that all the buyer knows is the flowers ‘come from Holland’… In reality, they have come from Kenya where the industry is – literally – draining that country dry.”
The following exerpts are from the Council of Canadians’ Naivasha Report…
Pesticides and Poor Labour Standards
Stories abound of flower farm workers suffering from chemical exposure and enduring long hours at low wages in the fields and processing facilities. A 26-year-old woman, one of the 50,000 people working on the farms, told the Reuters news service that the pesticides and fertilizers used on the farm give her rashes two to three times a month. Unfortunately, the doctors, employed by the companies, are reluctant to discuss any connections between illness and the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
“Secret filming inside one of the large farm greenhouses showed workers in protective gear spraying flowers, while other workers nearby wore no protective clothing,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.
During a trip to Lake Naivasha in the summer of 2007, Food & Water Watch staff saw photographs of cattle who died after drinking pesticide-laden water flowing from one of the flower farms. But chemical exposure is not the only problem workers face. There is the matter of their treatment, as well. Ouma Oloo’s mother worked for the Oserian flower company after the Naivasha fishing downturn. He is glad that she has long since retired: “This industry chews up and spits out people.”
Indeed, in 2006, workers at Oserian rioted over low wages, poor working conditions, and mass firings.
Although some of the farms have received some credit for trying to improve labour conditions, critics point out how much remains to be done. Edward Indimuli of Workers Rights Watch pointed out that, “people here are suffering. The conditions are terrible.”
According to Reuters: “Sher worker Daniel Sagwe, who earns 4,700 Kenyan shillings ($65) a month plus a 1,000 shilling housing allowance, said he could barely afford to buy water for his three children and wife.”