Valentine’s and Mother’s Day are the busiest times of the year for the UK’s £1.4 billion flower business, but as Anna Barker of Fairtrade Foundation reveals, their origins aren’t always as beautiful.
The majority 94% of the flowers sold in the UK come from Africa and the Middle East, where many communities rely on the trade for work but can be mistreated, experience poor health and safety and little in return for hard labour.
Fairtrade means the people who grow, harvest, pack and care for your flowers get a better deal. The iconic FAIRTRADE Mark represents industry-leading social and environmental standards. The charity is committed to increasing wages and champion decent working conditions to protect people working on flower farms.
So if you’ve not considered choosing Fairtrade now is the ideal time to share the love even further among the people behind your bunch as well as your loved ones.
Around the world sales of 834 million Fairtrade flowers have raised €6.8 million (£1.3million from UK sales alone) for extra investment that flower farm workers often use for social projects, such as decent housing, healthcare and education for their communities, and also training opportunities to support the workers themselves to progress.
Esther Juma, is a single mother of two, from Nakuru in Kenya. She started working at Bigot Flowers as a general worker. She is one of 57,900 people working on Fairtrade flower farms around the world who is enjoying the benefits of relatively good wages and dignified working conditions.
Through Fairtrade Africa, she received a one-year bursary to study for a Diploma in Information Technology (IT) helping Esther to provide a standard of living for her children, compared to how she grew up.
When she finished her IT course, she applied for a job as a recorder, a new position that means she has been able to pay school fees for her two daughters. Her children don’t have to travel far because they attend a local school built by Bigot Flowers through the Fairtrade Premium, which has already benefitted from investment created by sales of Fairtrade flowers, and now they are set on a path to fulfil their own dreams.
There are systemic challenges for many flower farm workers that prevent ambitious women from pursuing their goals, but with the support that Fairtrade can offer, Esther and others on the farm are able to take an active part in shaping their future. Esther says: ‘When you empower a woman, you empower a whole community.’
For this reason in 2019 Fairtrade launched an innovative new programme, the Women’s School of Leadership (WSOL) to give flower farm workers in Ethiopia the opportunity to understand their rights and gain practical business skills to help them earn additional income. The four year initiative will benefit more than 11,000 flower farm workers, in a region where 85% of the workers are women. It is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish Post Code Lottery and Aldi UK, which sources Fairtrade roses from Ethiopia for its supermarkets.
Fairtrade flowers are available to buy on UK high streets and online via Moonpig and Arena flowers. In January Lidl became the latest retailer to launch a range, whilst Co-op was the first to sell 100% Fairtrade roses and Sainsbury’s, M&S, Aldi, Morrison’s and Asda all stock Fairtrade.
Fairtrade Fortnight runs from Monday 24 February – Sunday 8 March and is campaigning for equality for the women behind our products with the message: She Deserves Fairtrade.
Launching this Valentine’s Day 2020 for the first time, many independent florists across the UK will begin to supply premium roses from Ecuador.
Find out more about the Fairtrade Foundation and how you can help at fairtrade.org.uk