The human impacts of flower farm development in the Ethiopian Rift Valley region

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Gezmu, Anteneh Belachew
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University College Cork
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The flower industry has a reputation for heavy usage of toxic chemicals and polluting the environment, enormous consumption of water, and poor working condition and low wage level in various parts of the world. It is unfortunate that this industry is adamant to change and repeating the same mistakes in Ethiopia. Because of this, - there is a growing concern among the general public and the international community about sustainability of the Ethiopian flower industry. Consequently, working conditions in the flower industry, impacts of wage income on the livelihoods of employees, coping strategies of low wage flower farm workers, impacts of flower farms on the livelihoods of local people and environmental pollution and conflict, were analysed. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were employed. Four quantitative data sets: labour practice, employees’ income and expenditure, displaced household, and flower grower views survey were collected between 2010 and 2012. Robust regression to identify the determinants of wage levels, and Multinomial logit to identify the determinants of coping strategies of flower farm workers and displaced households were employed. The findings show the working conditions in flower farms are characterized by low wages, job insecurity and frequent violation of employees’ rights, and poor safety measures. To ensure survival of their family, land dispossessed households adopt a wide range of strategies including reduction in food consumption, sharing oxen, renting land, share cropping, and shifting staple food crops. Most experienced scarcity of water resources, lack of grazing areas, death of herds and reduced numbers of livestock due to water source pollution. Despite the Ethiopian government investment in attracting and creating conducive environment for investors, not much was accomplished when it comes to enforcing labour laws and environmental policies. Flower farm expansion in Ethiopia, as it is now, can be viewed as part of the global land and water grab and is not all inclusive and sustainable. Several recommendations are made to improve working conditions, maximize the benefits of flower industry to the society, and to the country at large.
Livelihoods , Decent work , Conflict , Ethiopia , Central Rift Valley , Flower farms , Land grab , Water grab
Gezmu, A. B. 2013. The human impacts of flower farm development in the Ethiopian Rift Valley region. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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