Kenyan flower industry warms up to measuring carbon footprint

Kenya is positioning itself as a responsible flower grower with a new tool that measures carbon emissions in an international market that is increasingly concerned with emissions disclosure.  

Kenya is a major player in the international flower market with industry players predicting that the country will export some 125, 000 tonnes of flowers in 2014, worth $531 million with the European Union absorbing 85 percent of all flower exports.  The flower sub sector is hailed as an important driver of the country’s economy having brought in $659 million in 2013  representing 1.6 percent of contribution to the economy.

And although Kenya  is a low carbon emitter by international standards, it has embraced the technology to guide it in international best practices. 

Dubbed The Carbon Reduction, Resources and Opportunities Toolkit (CaRROT), the excel sheet technology has received a nod from farmers and flower growers who described it as a practical tool with industry associations lauding it for giving Kenya a competitive edge in an international market that is increasingly concerned with emissions disclosure. 

The toolkit is an accessible and easy to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that integrates energy and water trackers with a carbon calculator. The features have been designed with the local Kenyan context in mind. So, for instance, the energy tracker accounts for grid-electricity, non-grid electricity, diesel, petrol and kerosene usage. Water use from diverse sources, including municipal water, boreholes, lakes, rivers, reservoirs and water harvesting, is accounted for. The development process involved technical experts, flower producers, internal farm auditors, government representatives and other key stakeholders.

During its launch flower growers who were involved in its development lauded it as a step in the right direction. Oserian Growersdescribed it as a practical tool that enables farms to monitor themselves and take proactive steps to sustain the industry. Simbi Roses was particularly impressed by the industry life cycle analysis that assisted them in understanding the associated CO2 emissions from each stage of production. PJ Dave Flowers described the toolkit as “providing direction” for sectoral action.

The flower industry in Kenya is known for taking measures to respond to environmental impacts by embracing alternative sources of resources, especially water and power. Oserian is using geothermal energy for heating greenhouses, Bilashaka is using solar energy, and Timaflor biogas. Preliminary reports from Simbi Roses and PJ Dave confirm that flower farm waste can be used to generate energy. Many of these developments also contribute to carbon emission reduction which, thanks to CaRROT, can now be systematically measured.  Several such best practice projects were on display at the CaRROT launch.

Participation in CaRROT is free and data collection forms are available at participating institution websites.  Although the system is voluntary at the moment, parties are urging growers to embrace it as such measures may become mandatory in a world that demands data for emissions disclosure. It is expected that in about five years, when data can be consolidated, compared and clear indicators given over a reasonable period, the sector will present an industry carbon emission position.

“A recent sectoral competitiveness study highlighted reputation as one of the main threats to the Kenyan industry and carbon emissions as a key element to this threat. It is essential to establish our own data in order to monitor and mitigate this threat,” said Jane Ngige, CEO of Kenya Flower Council in an earlier interview.

Most existing international certification standards do not require detailed resource tracking. It was however found that many of the larger farms, especially those with an international corporate presence, are already tracking their carbon footprint through internal structures or subcontractors. In this regard, the biggest push for uptake of the CaRROT tool is medium and small scale farms.

Additional outputs from the project include self-regulating voluntary GHG management standards for the sector as well as an assessment of policy and institutional frameworks, legal and regulatory developments in key local and export markets, existing carbon management applications and life-cycle assessments for the sector.

The toolkit will not only serve individual farms in tracking resource usage, it has also emerged as a key enabler in establishing a system to collect and analyze aggregated sectoral data. “We don’t yet know what a good flower farm looks like,” says Rachel Wanyoike. “The toolkit will assist in establishing a baseline, and developing internal weighting and benchmarking for the Kenyan sector.” The toolkit development process was key in bringing the KFC and farms together to progress efforts to capture and analyse sectoral data.

Data collection through a centralize KFC portal was started in 2011, but uptake has been slow with submitted data incomplete or inaccurate. There has also not been a tool to analyse the data. “Previously farms were just putting data in a black hole, but CaRROT supplies analysis and insight in linking inputs to outputs,” says Rachel. Further plans are to integrate the toolkit into the online platform.

CaRROT has been tested under different scenarios and presented to sector members through two validation workshops. The project also served as a conduit through which to raise awareness on climate change risks and opportunities within the flower sector and popularise self-regulating, voluntary standards.