NAIVASHA - Many of the beautiful bouquets sold across European markets have a devastating environmental and human cost. In Kenya, a supplier of 40% of the European cut flower market, the floriculture industry faces accusations of having a calamitous effect on water sources, of chemical use leading to disease, and of widespread abuses of farm workers, 70% of whom are women. 

Across Europe, people give flowers to mark important events like marriages, birthdays, and funerals. Many of those flowers come from Kenya. Flowers are transported  in gas-guzzling jets, wrapped in single-use plastic, and arranged in toxic foam. Glyphosate, a known carcinogen, pollutes waterways, compounding existing water shortages.

Thousands of farm workers, driven by poverty, drought, and food insecurity, endure terrible conditions without adequate labour rights or union access. Women report sexual harassment and exploitation at work. 

The Netherlands, the global flower industry epicentre, sells 50% of all Kenyan flowers in the European market. While European companies profit, consumers remain oblivious to the sources of their cut flowers, and workers and their communities suffer.

In this investigation, we visited Lake Naivasha, Kenya’s flower-growing region, to examine the environmental and human consequences of Europe’s thirst for cut flowers, listening to the voices of its victims and spotlighting the companies profiting from their labour.

Team members

Ismail Einashe

Ismail Einashe is an award-winning journalist and writer.

Ismail Einashe

Kate Stanworth

Kate Stanworth is an award-winning photographer based in London.

Kate Stanworth

Geesje van Haren

Geesje van Haren is a Dutch journalist, who has run her own media organization VersPers for over 16 years.

Geesje van Haren
€15.500, allocated on 09/02/2023

need resources for your own investigative story?

Journalismfund Europe's flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.


support independent cross-border investigative journalism

We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.