Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kenya: Geothermal Energy Helps Rose Growers Bloom

Coming up roses (The Economist)

Kenya’s flower-export business is a rare success - thanks to geothermal energy

Around the edges of Lake Naivasha, under the shadow of a dormant volcano, Mt Longonot, one of Kenya’s most successful export businesses of recent years has become established. All around the lake, and off dirt roads that lead from it, are acres and acres of plastic tenting in which flowers of all sorts, but especially roses, are grown for export. At the biggest operators, thousands of workers go in each day to water, feed, pick and prepare the crop. On average, 360 tonnes of flowers are flown out of Nairobi airport every day, mostly to Europe but also to Asia and the Middle East. Kenya is the world’s third-largest producer of cut flowers; the crop is its second-largest export, after tea. Since 1988 the industry has grown more than tenfold.

Flower farming, then, is a bit like fast-fashion manufacturing. To thrive, it needs an educated workforce; effective, but not onerous, regulation; good access; a decent airport nearby; and plenty of electricity. Indeed, after air freight and labour, power is the main cost: flowers need plenty of light and carefully controlled air and water supplies. The industry has settled around Naivasha because the area’s volcanic terrain is home to several geothermal power stations, the lake provides water and the airport is not far away. Other parts of Kenya are not so well provided for.

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