Gender and vulnerability in the cut flower and vegetable value chains in Kenya

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Gender and vulnerability in the cut flower and vegetable value chains in Kenya

  1. 1. Gender and vulnerability inthe cut flower and vegetable value chains in Kenya Maggie Opondo University of Nairobi Advancing Agri-practice: Adding value for women in agriculture Workshop KARI, Nairobi Kenya 23-24 May 2010
  2. 2. Overview•Satisfying the ever-demanding tastes of global consumers has led supermarketsand department stores to source products from farms and factories scatteredacross the globe•Today global value chains carrying fresh (cut flowers and vegetables) productsare a defining characteristic of production spaces, particularly in developingcountries where such chains provide important opportunities for income andeconomic growth•Export horticulture (vegetables & cut flowers) has expanded exponentially inKenya in the last two decades•For instance, in the last seven years alone, horticulture has overtaken tea as theprincipal foreign exchange earner
  3. 3. 70% of quality greenbeans produced inKenya come to the UK
  4. 4. Gender and employment• This has lead to an expansion of paid work in commercial agriculture• The labor force includes a significant proportion of women• This female employment is often temporary, low paid, informal and insecure (i.e. vulnerable)• This presentation mainly refers to the temporary (seasonal and casual) workers who account for between 30-45% of labor in horticulture
  5. 5. Gender and employment•It draws on research on gender issues in the Kenyan-Europehorticultural value chain•Insecure workers are highly vulnerable to poverty, which iscompounded in the case of women who have to juggle theirreproductive roles with that of their productive ones•The shift towards year-round sales of fresh produce has stimulated amarket for Kenyan horticultural products
  6. 6. Gender and employment• Packing and preparation of fresh produce requires investment in pack houses and food processing plants, posing challenges to the small producers• Small producers also generally lack access to sufficient funds to meet these requirements• Despite modernization of production, horticulture remains a labor intensive sector, with labor accounting for 50-60% of farm costs• Gender segregation is common with men occupying the more senior permanent positions and women concentrated in more insecure positions• This includes seasonal employment of 1-6 months and casual work
  7. 7. Flowers in a greenhouse
  8. 8. Washing and packing plant for fresh produce
  9. 9. Gender and employment• Seasonality of production has always been an important factor in determining demand for agricultural labor• However, with economic upgrading in horticultural value chains the seasons have been extended and demand for labor is mostly all year round• Although there has been a trend towards permanent employment seasonal and casual workers expressed considerable feelings of job insecurity
  10. 10. Gender and employment• They are most exposed to potential dismissal and do not benefit from the security and legislated entitlements of permanent employment• This insecurity has specific gender implications related in some cases to women’s exclusion from benefits such as maternity leave and sick pay, as well as the fact that many workers leave their children behind in rural areas due to job insecurity
  11. 11. Gender and employment• Flexibility of employment is another key element behind the large temporary employment in horticultural value chains – women are often seen as more ‘flexible’ than male workers• Intense competition, falling prices and other macro- economic factors (economic downturn, volcanic ash) have created pressure on producers leading to minimization of labor costs
  12. 12. Gender and employment• Flexible employment allows employers to minimize the labor they retain by varying the length of the working• The need for flexibility is also driven by the northern buyers sourcing patterns• Producers have to meet tight buyer schedules and often have to supply additional products at short notice or if consumer demand changes• High levels of female employment relate partly to the perceived ‘skill’ and ‘dexterity’ of women in handling delicate produce, which is key to maintaining the quality demanded by northern buyers
  13. 13. Gender and employment• But these skills have been largely socially instilled as girls are prepared for a domestic role within society• Despite undertaking tasks that add significant value, women can be employed on low wages with little training• They are seen as docile, compliant and accepting of poor employment conditions often because they are ill-informed about their rights
  14. 14. Vulnerability of horticultural workers• Temporary women workers are entangled in a poverty trap• Female workers generally work long hours for low pay and rarely have access to benefits such as sick pay, medical care and maternity leave• Poverty is compounded by their productive and reproductive roles• Benefits (such as maternity leave, childcare provision and transport) which enable women to balance unpaid caring work with paid work are often not extended to temporary women workers• The vulnerability is made worse by lack of employment insecurity and involuntary periods out of work
  15. 15. Vulnerability of horticultural• workers Seasonal migrant and contract workers who are removed from their social networks, or live in peri-urban shanty towns, lack basic forms of social protection that traditionally constitute an important form of support• For instance, the majority of rickets cases in Naivasha (the cut flower hub in Kenya) come from flower farm workers’ children• This is partly attributed to lack of provision of day care centers in Naivasha• Redundant horticultural workers often turn to prostitution leading to an increased incidence of HIV/Aids in Naivasha
  16. 16. Vulnerability of horticultural workers• Vulnerability also has a gender dimension• Women temporary and contract workers are more likely to work for shorter periods in the year than men and often earn lower wages for comparable work than male colleagues• Women are more likely to be juggling paid work with childcare and family responsibilities• They not only carry the risks arising from insecure and often informal work, they also carry the risks of illness, accident and old age among family dependents
  17. 17. Vulnerability of horticultural workers• If a child is sick and a temporary or contract worker has to take time off, she may not only lose income but possibly her job• The HIV/AIDS pandemic coupled with cost-sharing in the health service has invariably increased the burden of health care on women• Women who become pregnant also risk losing their jobs if they have no formal right to maternity leave and often hide their pregnancy as a result• This has health implications both for the expectant mother and unborn child ( such as exposure to pesticides and physical stress)• Thus for women workers caught between productive and reproductive roles, their exposure to risk and vulnerability is magnified
  18. 18. Addressing vulnerability• Legislation covering female temporary workers in agriculture is often weak, particularly with regard to laws designed to protect women workers from discrimination and guarantee them equal opportunities in the workplace• The Employment Act (2007) attempts to address the plight of casual and female workers (casual employees for 90 days should be made permanent and 4 month maternity leave)• Nonetheless, implementation has been varied and some employers have been reluctant to implement this• It has also led to discrimination of employment of potential female workers
  19. 19. Addressing vulnerability• Horticultural value chains have provided a potential route for addressing vulnerability of workers through codes of labor practice• These codes which set out minimum rights for workers ( such as health and safety, pay and hours of work) have to be upheld by suppliers• However while codes may benefit permanent workers they often fail to reach temporary, migrant and contract workers and are weak at addressing gender issues• Most horticultural producers also pursue policies around corporate social responsibility which can extend to include labor issues (KFC, FPEAK)
  20. 20. Addressing vulnerability• The growth of fairtrade horticultural products (flowers and now vegetables) also acts to support local producers and workers• Fairtrade labelled goods guarantee the producers a minimum price and offer a 15% social premium which is returned for social projects (schools, clinics)• Fairtrade covers small producers and also larger commercial farms where social principles are met
  21. 21. Addressing vulnerability• Where workers are employed, Fairtrade also has a code of practice aimed at ensuring minimum employment standards• However, global processes that are further reinforcing top-down and technical interpretations of standards is epitomized in labour rights with the emergence of the Global Social Compliance Programme, GSCP• Such global processes could threaten the gains made by labor codes of conduct
  22. 22. Gender-specific improvements from codes• Maternity leave• Equal opportunities policy• Gender Committees• Gender friendly workplaces
  23. 23. General social improvements from codes• Sanitation• Drinking water• Gender toilets and showers• Permanent contracts• Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)• Social Infrastructure

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