Ethiopia/Netherlands – Flower Power

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In the latest five years, while flower-cultivated surface in the Netherlands decreased by 65%, in Ethiopia the number of hi-tech greenhouses have risen dramatically, devoted mainly to the production of roses. Dutch dealers still keep strict control over the world flower market -from production inputs (seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) to final sale- but production has been gradually moved abroad. Ideal soil and climate conditions, availability of cheap man power and high incentives offered to foreign investors by local government have made Ethiopia become the new Eldorado for industrial flower growing. Ziway lake, located 160 km south of Addis Ababa, was the site chosen in 2006 by Sher -the largest rose company in the world- to settle their first Ethiopian greenhouses. The high temperatures and the massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the greenhouses make conditions unsafe for Ethiopian workers, whose daily wage is less than one euro. Nonetheless the roses grown here claim the best known environment and social certifications, including Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (Flo), world main fairtrade label. In the Netherlands more than 40 years ago Max Havelaar label was created in the belief that fairtrade conditions, promoting direct cooperation with small producers, could be the key to improving the living conditions of the world’s poorest people. Is it “fair” that today Ziway roses, produced by the largest rose company in the world which takes advantage of cheap manpower and poisons Ethiopian soils, claim this very same label?

 

Ethiopian Minister of Industry meets a Dutch fair-trade roses producer at Hortiflora Expo Ethiopia in Addis AbabaSher workers in Ziway sorting roses per stalk length. They earn less than 30 euros per monthFlora Holland, the major flower market in the world. It’s responsible for 20% of the Dutch trade surplus, selling 12.5 billion flowers per year with an annual turnover of 4.2 billion eurosHortiflora Expo Ethiopia, which is financed by Dutch development cooperationSher workers in Ziway. Cut flower industry in Ethiopia is dominated by Dutch foreign investorsDaily cleaning in Mesert’ family, Sher worker in ZiwaySher greenhouses dump chemicals into the Ziway lakeZiway Lake, in the Rift Valley, 160 km south of Addis AbabaHortiflora Expo in Addis AbabaFlora Holland headquarters in AalsmeerAalsmeer flower auction has a daily turnover of 10 million eurosOlij Rozen plant in AalsmeerHortiflora Expo Ethiopia: many roses companies producing in Ethiopia are certified by Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (Flo), world main fairtrade labelThe high temperatures and the massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the Sher greenhouses make conditions unsafe for Ethiopian workers, who don't dress any protection equipmentSher roses produced in Ziway are certified by Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (Flo), world main fairtrade labelSher roses pack-house in ZiwayZiway, roses ready for shipment to AmsterdamZiway, Fekerte with her family after work in Sher greenhousesFlowers vender in an Amsterdam suburb marketOlij Rozen workers in Aalsmeer hourly net wage amounts to 8 euros vs 15 euros paid by the company. High taxes on wages and gas price drive many Dutch companies shut activities at homeDutch company AQ Roses booth at Hortiflora Expo EthiopiaDutch seeds booth at Hortiflora Expo EthiopiaKaraturi booth at Hortiflora Expo Ethiopia: the Indian agro-business giant has recently bought Sher activities in EthiopiaIrrigation systems booth at Hortiflora Expo EthiopiaSher greenhoses in ZiwaySher roses pack-house in ZiwayRoses in the Sher Ziway refrigerators ready for shipment to Aalsmeer, NetherlandsZiway Sher roses start their journey to Amsterdam marketFlora Holland headquarters in AalsmeerZiway child

Negli ultimi 5 anni, mentre in Olanda la superficie coltivata a fiori si riduceva di 2 terzi, le campagne etiopi hanno visto moltiplicarsi il numero di serre ad alta tecnologia per la produzione soprattutto di rose. Gli olandesi, leader incontrastati del settore, continuano a controllare il mercato -dagli input di produzione (semi, pesticidi, fertilizzanti) alla commercializzazione finale- ma la coltivazione è stata progressivamente trasferita all’estero. Grazie alla manodopera abbondante e a prezzi stracciati, a terre fertili e condizioni climatiche eccellenti, e ai forti incentivi offerti dal governo agli investitori stranieri, l’Etiopia è divenuta il nuovo Eldorado della floricoltura industriale. Il lago di Ziway, 160 km a sud di Addis Abeba, è stato scelto dalla compagnia olandese Sher per impiantare le sue prime serre etiopi nel 2006. Sotto i capannoni infuocati dello stabilimento, i lavoratori sono costretti a convivere con l’uso massiccio di fertilizzanti e pesticidi chimici. Il loro salario giornaliero ammonta a meno di un euro al giorno. Ciononostante le rose prodotte qui possono vantare le più note certificazioni ambientali e sociali, compresa quella della Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (Flo), principale marchio del commercio equo e solidale internazionale. Oltre 40 anni fa in Olanda veniva creato il marchio Max Havelaar, convinti che un commercio giusto basato sulla collaborazione diretta con piccoli produttori del Sud potesse essere la chiave per lo sviluppo delle popolazioni più povere del pianeta. È “giusto” che oggi le rose di Ziway -prodotte dalla più grande compagnia di rose al mondo, che sfrutta le braccia e avvelena le terre dell’Etiopia- possono vantare lo stesso marchio?

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