The flower industry is implementing different environmentally friendly measures.
Picture: Phoebe Okall
Kenya’s flower industry is in the process of setting up a pooled carbon credit scheme, to benefit from the carbon emissions trade.
This is a system where industrialised nations invest in clean energy projects in poorer nations and in return get offset credits that can be used towards emissions goals or sold for profit.
Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Jane Ngige says the industry is looking at counting all trees planted by each farm to form a “flower industry forest” and front the numbers as a single carbon sink.
“We are in the process of auditing existing clean energy schemes with a view to replicating these on all farms to collectively earn credits that would be ploughed into more activities, so that in the final analysis, the entire industry can lay claim to being a major player in climate change intervention measures,” she said.
Flower exports account for more than half of Kenya’s horticulture exports — the biggest source of foreign exchange last year for the country, ahead of tea and tourism. Last year, Kenya made $40 million from flower exports, a 15 per cent drop from the previous year.
Stephene Mutimba, the managing director of Camco, an energy consultancy firm that has been contracted by the flower industry to study the existing and untapped potential of producing and using clean energy, recommends pooling of resources and supporting the smaller farms to install solar panels depending on the size of farms and other possible initiatives. “The idea is to establish a revolving fund where farms can borrow money to set up clean energy initiatives,” he said.
With the programme, Kenya will bolster its stand that flowers produced in the country emit less carbon despite being airlifted to outside markets, said Mr Mutimba.
Four years ago, there was a major debate in Europe as claims gained currency that airlifting flowers and other horticultural produce resulted in a huge carbon footprint, with some activists clamouring for a boycott of air freighted produce.
This prompted a study that established that growing and flying fresh produce from the country produced less carbon than European grown products because of the high energy requirements needed to heat greenhouses and extend daylight in cold climes. In addition, Mr Mutimba said that the fresh produce is carried on passenger planes, so there is no increase in carbon per unit.
A World Bank study recommends that flower farms pool together to form a grand carbon credit scheme and collaborate in various environmentally friendly activities such as planting more trees, collecting and recycling water.
The Ministry of Environment is already working with two growers on a pilot scheme to convert farm waste into biogas, and if successful, the farms- Simbi Roses in Thika and PJ Dave in Kitengela will be used as models to replicate the concept in others.
PJ Dave farm manager Peter Kiarie, said flowers produce substantial waste, which if converted into biogas would save the country considerable hydro-electric units.
Currently, most of the flower waste is turned into compost, and in a few farms such as Vegepro is used to make liquid organic fertilizer. A number have already installed clean energy projects key among them Oserian Development Company that has established the world’s largest geothermal heated greenhouse. The farm generates 95 per cent of its energy requirements.
Another milestone is the giant solar energy plant run by Bilashaka Flowers—a first in the world—the clearest indication that the country is yet to exploit clean energy. Managing director, Joost Zuurbeir, says that two years after the multi-million project was launched in 2006, the farm had recouped its investment and has since made substantial savings on the kerosene that was initially used to heat the greenhouses. “The result is a cleaner, healthier flower from a cleaner environment”, he said adding that their flowers are rated premium in the market because they score highly on environmental audits.
Mr Stephene Mutimba, the managing director of Camco, an energy consultancy firm, that has been contracted by the flower industry to study the existing and untapped potential of producing and using clean energy recommends pooling of resources and supporting the smaller farms to install solar panels depending on the size of farms and other possible initiatives. “The idea is to establish a revolving fund where farms can borrow money to set up clean energy initiatives,” he said.
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