With decline in cut flower orders, women who constitute at least 75 per cent of workforce in horticulture industry stare at a bleak future as the exporting countries shelve into a lockdown due to coronavirus epidemic.
Effect of temporary travel bans to European Union (EU) is falling back on more than 110,000 employees working in the flower farms in Naivasha - the heart of floriculture in Kenya.
EU commands 70 - 90 per cent of Kenya’s market for horticulture produce including cut flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Other export destinations are United States of America, Canada, Middle East, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Australia which are similarly taking travel precautions to contain spread of the disease.
The orders have been cancelled thus slowing down activities in the flower firms.
Already, some of the 41 Naivasha-based horticulture firms have sent their employees home including women on a 14-day paid or unpaid leave, Mr Ferdinand Juma, Kenya Plantations and Agriculture Workers Union (KPAWU) Naivasha branch secretary told the Nation by phone on Wednesday.
He said only unionised members have been granted paid leave since their employers are legally bound to Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which clearly defines working terms.
“Those on unpaid leave are non-unionised workers, mainly casual labourers working in vegetable firms whose operations are seasonal, and women are majority,” said Mr Juma.
In flower farms, the female workforce is estimated to be between 65 and 75 per cent. This means the recession is directly affecting some 71,500 to 82,500 women out of the estimated 110,000 workers.
Mr Juma, expressed worry over workers losing their jobs if the epidemic fails to diminish by mid-April.
“When farms harvest 100,000 (flower) stems and only 3,000 (of them) are ordered. What does that mean? No returns and no work,” he said.
Ms Euninza Kustirian, attached to grading section in one of the flower farms said she is shaken as her colleagues have already been sent on leave.
“I don’t know what will happen to us if this coronavirus epidemic persists for too long,” she said.
“They are many women working in the farms and this is our main source of livelihood. How will we feed our children or meet their education expenses?” she wondered.