Reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on flower farms in Kenya
Orders dropped every day, prices at the auction were at their worst ever, we dumped thousands of roses every day as we didn’t have any market – JWN, FairVoice Kenya 2020
As lockdowns rippled around the globe, the flower export industry stopped overnight, creating a huge unknown for the workers and their futures. Flower orders reduced drastically as retailers prioritised essential goods, flights were grounded, and governments banned public gatherings. A surge in transport costs and severe weather conditions simply troubled this further.
FairVoice first launched in Kenya soon after Covid-19 hit to help surface the hidden stories of how workers on Fairtrade’s flower farms were experiencing the crisis. Fairtrade partnered with Radar to train workers as community reporters and share information as the situation unravelled via their mobile phones.
Their stories were powerful in cutting through the typical soundbites on Covid lockdowns, sharing insightful, timely and heartfelt reactions to the world as it changed before them, and the importance of the Fairtrade Premium in their lives.
In Kenya, we worked with the Fairtrade Foundation and Fairtrade Africa to remotely train workers across four flower farms as community reporters. As an entirely remote course, the interactive training modules explored the basics of citizen journalism and how to use a mobile phone to gather insights and stories about the impact that Covid-19 was having on the flower farming industry in Kenya.
Onboarding, training and reporting were supported by a toll-free number – set up in Kenya – and a content dashboard, Radius, which could receive, manage and send information and messages, creating a two-way conversation with online and offline communities. This meant that Fairtrade could meet the communities where they were, in their own time, helping to build the capacity of communities to tell their own stories; receiving and holding their insight, capturing their consent and feeding back to them.
The network was tasked with weekly questions to collect from a ‘virtually close’ selection of people in their community and received mentoring from local mentors with substantial community journalism experience. The community reporters would share their reports via voice message and text to Radius, where we would translate the messages and monitor them for follow up and further development.
Over the project period, over 60 reporters shared actively from across four farms. They reported on the huge loss of flower sales, a loss of income, strains on their wellbeing, as well as the challenges of school closures and the appreciation of Fairtrade Premium. Their voices make up the FairVoice Kenya report, which will be used to raise awareness of the importance of buying Fairtrade.
Following the success of the pilot project, FairVoice will be scaling up its reach and impact with Kenya flower farmers, as well as launching a further network with cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and tea plantation workers in India.
Fairtrade Foundation and Fairtrade Africa
On Valentine’s day 2021, Fairtrade shared voices from the flower farm workers in Kenya, which can be read here.