When you receive your Valentine’s bouquet this year, will you wonder where it came from? Probably not, but it’s possible your flowers are better travelled than you. Sitting just below the horn of Africa, Kenya is the largest exporter of flowers to the European Union, meaning your pretty petals may have crossed equators and oceans to arrive at your door. Kiki Deere visited an independent flower farm in Kenya to find out what it’s like to be an African rose.
A young woman gingerly places a dozen white roses in yellow plastic buckets. Behind her, a man walks the rose beds, painstakingly removing dead heads from each plant. The flowers’ large heads have opened beautifully, emanating a strong fruity smell that fills the greenhouse. I am in Nanyuki, a small market town 195km north of Nairobi.
by Kiki Deere
With ten hours of sunshine a day and 800mm of annual rainfall, the market town of Nanyuki has the perfect conditions for growing flowers. Thanks to the area’s cool climate – Nanyuki is right on the equator at 1900m above sea level – it has become a magnet for expats after an alternative base to the country’s chaotic capital.
Large European-style country homes are dotted throughout the verdant countryside surrounding the town and a smattering of restaurants have opened to cater for the growing expat community. A busy matatu platform serves as the town’s hub, where Kenyans travelling north and south gather among a gaggle of hawkers, and life goes on uninterrupted, without much of the country’s tourist trade passing through at all.