|Photo Credit: UFEA|
Commercial flower farming started around 1992 and it was as result of the decline in volume and value of traditional cash crops i.e. cotton, coffee and tea. The Uganda Flower Exporters Association (UFEA) says that about 178 hectares of land is used by the flower industry where 145.5 hectares (roses), 30.5 hectares (chrysanthemums) and 2.1 hectares (plants and foliage). There are more than 19 companies some are foreign owned, joint ventures and locally owned. Most of them are located near Lake Victoria and near the airport.
Wetlands are targeted by most of these companies like the Lake Victoria Lutembe Bay was targeted and reclaimed by Rosebud LTD for flower growing. Little was done by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the government. May be the government does not understand their functions to the ecosystem, that is a topic for another day. But the United Nations (UN) estimated that the global value of wetlands at $15 trillion and some of the functions include climate regulation.
Rose flowers are attacked by aphids and insects. In order to have good yields these pests need to be controlled and it is done through the use of chemicals. For that the flower industry has hit the charts for the most chemical intensive industry in Uganda, polluting the environment and human health. Although UFEA and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries believe the quantities used have no alarming threat to the environment. In 2002 Global Pesticide Campaigner did a study in Costa Rica which revealed that over 50% of respondents had at least one symptom of pesticide poisoning. The chemicals used end up in the soil and ground water, which are absorbed by plants which are consumed by man and animals. For those sprayed on the flowers end up in the atmosphere.
Chemicals used by flower companies were banned internationally like Methly bromide which is ozone depleting. The Montreal Protocol recommended to be phased out completely by 2005. Endosulfan which was banned under recommendations from Stockholm Convention is persistent in the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change are generated during the production and transportation of flowers to the consumer. Uganda exported about 6.7 million kilograms of roses in 2013 up from 6.4 million kilograms in 2012, there has been an average annual growth of 20% over the past 8 years (UFEA Data). The concern is on the amount of carbon emitted by the aircrafts that carry the flowers to Europe every day.
By Kateregga Dennis, BA(ECON), Dip.IEL, Consultant