Where would the Colombian floricultural industry be without the women?

It’s a well-known fact about the Colombian floricultural industry. The majority of the employees are female. At the two nurseries that we visited today, we did indeed notice that most of the workers were women. Many of Fransisco Bazzani’s employees at his nursery, Plazoleta, are single mothers. We learned that working at a nursery is an ideal job for them.

We had a good day today. With a large group, consisting of people from all over the world, including Poland, the Netherlands, Jamaica, the USA, Canada and Japan, we visited two nurseries: Plazoleta and Yasa. Plazoleta has been around since 1985 and they grow alstroemeria, statice, leucadendron, limonium, snapdragon and solidago. They gave an excellent presentation about Perfection, the brand under which the nursery markets their high quality flowers. I’ll be writing more about that at a later stage.

In addition to Perfection, Plazoleta is also characterised by the high number of single mothers they employ. Out of all employees, 65% is female and 80% of those are single mothers. I didn’t look into the sociological aspects as to why these women are single. Where are the fathers? What happened to them?

Let’s focus on the women. The fact is that Plazoleta really managed to capitalise on the situation. They collect the women with buses early in the morning and provide childcare facilities at the nursery. Other women who live near the nursery can make use of those, too. So the children are looked after while the women work. And when it’s time for a break, the mums can pop over for a quick cuddle with the kids. An opportunity that doesn’t go wasted, as we could see.

The typical working hours of the floricultural industry suit the single mothers, too. An early start and early finish fits in well with their schedule. It means that they can be at home with their children in the afternoon. And best of all, the fact that they earn their own money gives them independence.

But there are also benefits for Plazoleta of course. Just like everywhere else, it’s difficult in Colombia to motivate young people for a job in the horticultural industry, so Plazoleta is very pleased to have these great workers.

From Plazoleta we went on to Yasa, one of the few chrysanthemum growers near Bogota. We immediately noticed that there’s no steaming at Yasa. They grow their chrysanthemums in wooden boxes filled with a substrate that consists mostly of compost. According to Ricardo Otero they don’t have any problems with Fusarium. Regular testing confirms this. And the crops did look very healthy.

Yasa makes the compost with whatever is left over from their cultivation: roots, stems and flowers. They add a few things, like bacteria and water. The whole process takes three months.

The topic of labour came up again during this nursery visit, too. They said that around 60% of their workforce is female. Whether this includes many single mothers? I tried to ask one of the managers about it, but he gave me such a strange look when I said: “Do you work a lot with single mothers?”. No idea what he was thinking of.

I quickly moved on to a different subject. “Any problems with thrips?” Yes, thrips is generally a big problem in Colombia. What do they do against it? They use chemicals. But that’s something we’d already heard from a group of Dutch chrysanthemum growers who recently visited Colombia. Oh well, I had to think of something, didn’t I?

Arie-Frans Middelburg


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