African-Grown Flowers - Why You Should Not Give Up on Them

The continent's flower sector is a key contributor to the overall global flower industry. It therefore needs to be recognized as such.

By: THURSD. | 28-02-2024 | 10 min read
Floral Education Flowers Sustainability
Africa-Grown Flowers Are Essential in the Global Flower Industry

Flowers are, in a myriad of ways, beneficial to human well-being. They possess many qualities that bring cheer and happiness to people, more so on special occasions. As International Women's Day and Mother's Day approaches, it, therefore, becomes important to recognize the significance of Africa's flower industry in this scope and the role it plays in the economic development of the continent, and global floristry in general. 

Contrary to unproven reports that suggest the cultivation of African-grown flowers, including roses, is damaging to the global flower industry, these flowers hold immense value, both economically and environmentally. These flowers have significant positive impacts on individuals and the economies of flower-growing countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, and several others. Here’s how.

Economic and Welfare Value of Africa’s Flower Industry

The flower industry in Africa, particularly in countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, has experienced remarkable growth over the years. These countries have become major players in the global flower market, exporting millions of cut flowers worldwide. 


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Exquisite roses grown at Murambi Rose Farm in South Africa.
Photo by Murambi Roses


In terms of economic value, the flower industry contributes significantly to the GDP of these nations and provides employment opportunities to thousands of people. For instance, Ethiopia's flower industry alone generates billions of dollars in revenue and employs a substantial portion of the population. 

Kenya's flower industry, on the other hand, plays a vital role in its economy, providing jobs and supporting local communities. Kenya’s flower industry - which is among the biggest globally - brings to the East African country’s economy up to KSh 100 billion (USD 685 million) annually.

And there’s more to the benefits of the continental flower industry...


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Varieties of roses from South Africa's largest cut-flower producer, Tokoza Group.
Photo by @lepeony_flowers


The flower industry in many African countries provides a significant number of jobs to local communities, with flower farms requiring a range of skilled and unskilled labor, including flower cultivation, harvesting, sorting, packaging, and logistics. These employment opportunities help alleviate poverty and provide a stable source of income for individuals living on the continent and their families.

The success of the flower industry leads to increased revenue for local communities, which can be reinvested in social infrastructure. In this context, flower farms contribute to the development of schools, hospitals, roads, and other essential facilities, all of which benefit not only their employees but also the broader community. For example, these flower farms may establish schools or provide scholarships for children of their employees. They may also offer healthcare services, including medical check-ups and vaccinations, to workers and their families.


​Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Picking roses at one of Sian Flowers' farms. The Kenyan grower has many varieties of roses and summer flowers.
Photo by @ozexport


In Kenya, for instance, such flower growers include PJ Dave Flora located in Isinya, Kajiado County, roughly 37 miles south of the capital Nairobi. Others include Sian Flowers, Marginpar – which has several farms across different African countries -, Red Lands Roses, Tambuzi Roses as well as many others investing back to the communities around them. This goes to show just how important the industry is to the continent. 

Often, flower farms invest in training programs to enhance the skills of their workers. They provide training on issues such as sustainable farming practices, flower handling and packaging techniques, quality control, and post-harvest management. In equipping their workers with valuable skills, the industry empowers individuals to pursue better career opportunities that in turn improve their livelihoods.


​Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Jatropha grown on a farm owned by Marginpar in Tanzania.
Photo by @marginpar


What’s more, the flower industry in Africa has been instrumental in empowering women. Women make up a significant portion of the workforce in flower farms, often occupying key positions such as supervisors and managers. Kenya’s Red Lands Roses is a key example of flower growers making deliberate efforts to empower women through a variety of initiatives. Such efforts promote gender equality, contributing to women's economic enablement and social advancement.

Collaboration with local smallholder flower growers to enhance their prospects of reaching global markets boosts, not just their earnings but also provides livelihoods for many locals. Kenya Flower Council (KFC) is, for instance, collaborating with smallholder growers, helping them access the necessary criteria and requirements and even aggregating their flowers for markets.


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Native to the mountains of Southern Europe, Sweet William is a dianthus species that perfectly grows in Kenya as well.
Photo by @flowerhubkenya


Notably, as well, the flower industry in numerous countries often collaborates with small-scale farmers in the vicinity of flower farms. These collaborations involve sharing knowledge, providing technical assistance, and establishing fair trade practices. This, in turn, helps diversify income sources within the community and promotes inclusive economic growth.

With the growing importance of environmental conservation, the flower industries in different African countries, are aware of this. Many flower farms across the continent actively engage in environmental conservation efforts, implementing sustainable farming practices, such as water conservation, use of organic fertilizers, integrated pest management, and tracking of their carbon emissions. These are some of the initiatives critical in protecting the environment, preserving natural resources, promoting ecological balance within the local communities, and checking climate change.


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Roses at South Africa's Murambi Rose Farm near Sunrise-on-Sea, East London.
Photo by Murambi Roses


Still yet, on a much more personal level, flowers, including roses have long been recognized for their positive impact on human well-being. Numerous studies have shown that being in the presence of flowers can reduce stress, improve mood, and increase overall happiness.

The colorful and fragrant blooms grown on different farms across the continent, bring not just beauty, but also cheerfulness, joy, and well-being to billions of people across the world. Simply put, flowers are generally known to have therapeutic effects and are therefore used in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and wellness programs to promote well-being.


​Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Flowers are known to possess therapeutic and relaxing properties.
Photo by @barakaroses


Debunking Misconceptions About Africa’s Flowers

Despite the benefits to not just the local communities, but the world as a whole, there have been criticisms against flowers from Africa. Perhaps due to a lack of conclusive facts, there often is unsubstantiated vilification of Africa-grown flowers such as roses, chrysanthemums, carnations, hydrangeas, alstroemerias, and very many others. This potentially poses a damaging impact not just to the continent’s floriculture, but also to the global flower industry in general. 


​Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Ideal climatic conditions ensure flowers can be grown and harvested all year round in Africa.
Photo by @marginpar


One important aspect to consider is that flowers cultivated in Africa are subject to strict regulations and certifications, ensuring adherence to international standards of quality and sustainability. These flowers are grown using responsible agricultural practices, minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and promoting eco-friendly cultivation methods. Additionally, African flower farms often invest in renewable energy sources and water conservation techniques, further mitigating their environmental footprint.

The stringent standards and measures put in place ensure that flowers grown – and the entire flower value chain - in the continent undergo tough regulations to ensure that they comply with the global standards for flower cultivation, processing, and delivery. 


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Ethiopia's Yassin Legesse Johnson Flower Farm (Sunrise Flowers). Organizations like Fairtrade Africa work with African growers.
Photo by @fairtrade_africa


To simplify this, flower farms across the continent participate in internationally recognized certification programs such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, and Global G.A.P, which ensures their adherence to strict standards of sustainability, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. These certifications demonstrate the flower farms’ obligation to ensure sustainable practices and provide assurance to consumers that their flowers are produced responsibly.

Practices Demonstrating Africa’s Flower Growers’ Sustainability Adherence

The mistaken beliefs surrounding the environmental impact of African-grown flowers are, therefore, groundless, as extensive research and responsible practices show that these flowers are cultivated sustainably. 


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Ethiopian roses grown and delivered under sustainable conditions.
Photo by Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association - EHPEA


For instance, contrary to widespread misconceptions, the flower industry in Africa contributes to the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. Many flower farms in Africa operate in proximity to protected areas, and efforts are made to ensure the conservation of native flora and fauna. Such flower farms contribute to the protection of natural habitats, and hence they serve as a sustainable alternative to practices such as deforestation and land degradation. 

Furthermore, the flower industry plays a leading role in the conservation of water resources, as farms implement efficient irrigation systems and water management strategies. Water is a precious resource. And Africa’s flower farms recognize the importance of responsible water management.


​Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Towering anigozanthos produced by grower @exceptionalafricalla


They, accordingly, employ numerous techniques to conserve water, such as drip irrigation systems, which deliver water directly to the plant's roots, minimizing wastage. Additionally, farms invest in efficient water storage and recycling systems to reduce their overall water consumption.

African flower growers, also, prioritize soil health and fertility through sustainable soil management practices. They use organic fertilizers and compost to improve soil quality and enhance its ability to retain moisture. Crop rotation is also practiced to mitigate soil deterioration and maintain nutrient balance. This minimizes the need for synthetic fertilizers and ensures long-term soil sustainability.


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Rose Brickhouse, which has a unique color between a rusty, deep orange and tomato red is bred by @united_selections


Instead of relying heavily on chemical pesticides, African flower farms mostly embrace integrated pest management approaches. This involves using a combination of biological controls, natural predators, crop rotation, and careful monitoring to manage pests effectively while minimizing the use of harmful chemicals. It is an approach that helps preserve beneficial insects, maintain biodiversity, and reduce the environmental impact of pest control.

Furthermore, to reduce their carbon footprint, these farms are increasingly investing in renewable energy sources. Solar panels, in particular, are installed to generate clean energy, powering various farm operations. Energy-saving measures such as using energy-efficient lighting systems, optimizing heating and cooling systems, and employing advanced technologies to minimize energy consumption, are commonplace on these farms. Regulating their energy use means these farms decrease their carbon footprint, hence a more sustainable flower industry.


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Uganda’s Wagagai Ltd is one of the world's largest plant and flower-cutting propagators.
Photo by @deli_lejla


Additionally, across the continent, flower growers are, also, increasingly focused on reducing their carbon footprint through measures such as carbon sequestration through tree planting initiatives, using biofuels or clean energy sources, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through improved transportation logistics. 

What’s more, in their greenhouses, the vast majority of flower farms deploy greenhouse technologies to enhance sustainability. Such greenhouses provide controlled environments for flower cultivation, allowing farmers to optimize resource utilization. They have technologies such as automated climate control systems, water-efficient irrigation, and natural pest management. These models of greenhouse flower farming reduce water usage, minimize chemical inputs, and provide year-round production, thereby enhancing efficiency and sustainability.


Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Ethiopia is among the top flower producers globally.
Photo by Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association


In the same way, sustainable flower farms prioritize the well-being and social welfare of their workers. They provide fair wages, safe working conditions, and access to healthcare facilities. Some farms also offer additional benefits such as education support for workers' children, housing assistance, and community development programs. 

An Important Player in the Global Flower Industry

These sustainable practices, coupled with good agriculture practices, and the input of standards and certification bodies, collectively contribute to the overall environmental, social, and economic sustainability of flower farms in Africa. 


​Why You Should Not Give Up on African Flowers
Sorting and grading Clematis Amazing in Tanzania. The flower industry improves locals' livelihoods.
Photo by @marginpar


Their commitment to sustainable flower farming demonstrates that it is possible to sustainably produce beautiful flowers while minimizing negative environmental impacts and promoting the well-being of local communities, the more the reason the continent’s flower industry is a really important player in the global flower trade.


Feature image by @marginpar, header image by the @fairtrade_africa.


Can't get enough?

Subscribe to the newsletter, and get bedazzled with awesome flower & plant updates

Sign up