When you grow flowers in Africa, Kenya in our case, Europeans are often quick to judge. That you’re taking advantage of the circumstances for example.
As everyone knows by now, I’ve been in Kenya for more than 40 years and I’ve never seen a better country for flower growing. It’s located on the equator and has a diversity of altitudes, from sea level to 3,000 metres, so you can grow all crops all year round here.
As for infrastructure: the roads are good, telephone and internet connections are good, and you can find local suppliers for all your resources and materials without any problems. We’re even facing an oversupply of breeders, which can make it unnecessarily difficult sometimes to plant a new crop or variety.
With so many benefits, people wonder sometimes whether we’re treating our people well and fairly. Kenya is unique in that regard. There are many well-educated people who are willing to work hard and try to improve their position in society. Education for their children is at the top of their list, and education is still very expensive here. We do everything we can to attract excellent, enthusiastic people, who are passionate about the business.
And we seem to succeed in this too: people like working at our farms. There’s no harassment, the pay is good and the hours are too. We start at 8 a.m. and everyone’s done by 4.30 p.m. We work half days on Saturdays and Sundays, which means that everyone finishes at 1.30 p.m. We all get to enjoy the weekend and charge our batteries for the new week beginning on Monday.
To convince our customers that we’re doing the right things, we’re a member of the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and of MPS. We’ve been KFC Silver for 12 years, were MPS-A for 8 years, and have been MPS-SQ for 4 years now.
Two weeks ago, we were audited again for MPS-SQ. We were visited by a Dutch lady, who had to check everything in one day. She didn’t have her own transport. She had to be picked up, which meant that almost half the day was already gone.
She was completely stunned when she realised (our employees are always proud to share this detail) that we work two half days each week. This means that some people work less than the standard 46 hours. How does this fit in with MPS-SQ? Not possible: everyone has to work the same number of hours, you can’t advantage certain people.
I always thought that SQ was in place to protect people, not to make our employees’ lives difficult. My own impression? The employees of MPS itself are treated so badly, that they can’t accept that our employees get to enjoy their weekend.
I mean, if MPS can’t even arrange their own transportation, I wonder what else is wrong there. It’s high time that MPS takes a good look at itself. Their employees should be able to enjoy themselves, just like our people.
Simon van der Burg