Table banking helps women in flower farms supplement their meagre income
Their meagre salary within the multi-billion shilling industry notwithstanding, the women who work in flower farms have decided they will not wallow in misery for lack of better option.
Instead, they have decided to do what many Kenyan women with limited options do. Engaging in loose groups within the flower farms where they work, the women use saving schemes which have turned into very powerful economic enterprises boosting their standards of living.
While this strategy has leveraged many women to economic freedom and increased their decision making capacities, for women workers in flower farms this initiative remains a mechanism of supplementing their meagre incomes.
Forty-nine year old Beatrice Aseka* (not her real name) has lived in Karagita Village in Naivasha for the last four years working in one of the flower farm as a casual labourer.
A mother of eight, six of whom are already married, Aseka previously worked as a house help in Kasarani in Nairobi and opted to move to Naivasha when her husband was retrenched and had to relocate to their rural home in Bungoma County.
“I worked as a house help earning KSh6,000 per month but then I did not pay rent or buy food because my employer provided everything,” says Aseka. “At the moment, I earn KSh6,400 per month but I have to pay rent and buy food and making ends meet is very difficult.”
With only a difference of KSh400 in the pay, Aseka has to budget for KSh3,000 per month rent. She diligently has to pay for KSh1,000 monthly contribution to a merry-go-round group. The remaining KSh2400 is what she spends on food and clothing as well as sending something small to her husband back in their rural home.
Although her employer provides other benefits such transport to work and medical care in the vent that one falls ill while on duty, this is limited to working hours. During her off days, Aseka has to find a way of managing health issues at her own cost.
“We are provided with lunch every day and a bar of soap on a weekly basis,” she says.
Aseka is among thousands of women who form the bulk of the population working in the horticultural sector in Kenya, a key income earner for the country. However, the benefits from flower businesses are yet to trickle down to the majority of women working in the farms.
The women work under difficult conditions due to the labour intensive aspects of flower production with long working hours and insecure employment. According to Kenya’s minimum wage for employees, Aseka’s income falls way below the mark.
Like many women at work in flower farms, Aseka depends on the merry-go-round contribution of KSh1,000 per month as a saving. Since they are 20 members at the end of the day each one gets KSh20,000. She notes that with the high cost of education, it is the merry-go-round contribution that has sustained her children in school.
She is able to pay schools fee her two younger children aged 10 and 13 and also send money for renovation of her house in the village.
“My job involves packaging flowers in the greenhouse which accommodates 20 women who have formed our merry-go-round group,” explains Aseka.
The only drawback is that it takes about one and half years for a new round. Meetings are held on the first week of the month when everyone has received their salary and facilitated during lunch hour. When everyone brings their contribution, the money is given to one person and everybody goes back to work.
“Unlike other merry go rounds where women meet on Sunday afternoons, we organise ourselves during lunch time since we report to work at 6.50am and finish at 3.40pm completely exhausted,” she explains.
Aseka notes one of the challenges facing women working in this sector is that due to the long working hours, they don’t have time to engage in other income generating activities.
In a study conducted by Care Kenya, the other challenge facing women working in this sector is time constraints due to household obligations which limit their ability to participate in training and acquire knowledge on agronomic practices, processing and business skills as well as market information.
Aseka hopes that her condition will improve. She looks forward to the day her children will complete their high school education and safely retire to her rural home in Bungoma.