Kenya Declares Stand on Carbon Footprints (Part II)

Posted on 2 November 2007. Filed under: Environment |

This is the final part of the submission prepared by the National Taskforce on Horticulture of Kenya, an interactive forum with a multi-stakeholder public and private sector membership involved in the horticulture sub-sector. The first part has been published in the previous page/article.

Kenya, as a signatory to Kyoto Protocol and other related protocols is committed to responsible international trade. Kenya maintains that despite the fact that global warming is an important issue, it must be handled soberly. There are many unanswered questions on the theory of carbon emissions bringing about global warming.

Kenya’s bid to lower Greenhouse gas emissions in the horticulture sector includes increased use of geothermal, hydro and solar energies. In 2004, Kenya became the first country in the world to develop geothermal greenhouse heating technology at Oserian Flowers. The world’s largest commercial project using solar panels for heating greenhouses was launched in Kenya at Bilashaka Flowers (Naivasha) in 2007.

Kenya is ahead of other flower producing countries in developing environment-friendly technologies. According to leading economic indicators in Kenya for June 2007, Kenya has three major sources of energy: Hydro Electric Power (57%); Geothermal (16 %) and thermal (27%). Solar energy is being incorporated. Majority (80%) of horticultural production is non-mechanized, in open field, under natural light, not heating, employs recycled water and nutrients and is irrigated by gravity.

Kenyan Horticultural products are freshly exported, transported as ‘belly cargo’ and undergo minimal cold storage. Most of them are in passenger aircrafts hence minimal fuel consumption. The few-chartered cargo for horticulture is usually incidental return cargo, after delivery of valuable cargo and relief to Africa.

Green House gas emissions associated with Kenyan Horticultural Produce sold in the UK market is significantly less than that produced under greenhouses within the EU. Airfreight from Developing countries, which is the only way for these countries to get their highly perishable produce to the UK contributes only 0.1% of total UK emissions. Studies by Cranfield University on the Life Cycle Assessment of Kenyan Roses shows Greenhouse gas emissions will be about 6 times higher in the next 10 years under greenhouses in temperate lands when compared to those produced along the equator and air freighted to temperate lands.

A study by Cranfield University revealed that roses produced in the Netherlands and transported to Britain cause 35,000 kg of carbon emissions per 12,000 stems, against 600 kg of carbon emissions per 12,000 stems of Kenyan roses, the carbon cost of flying the roses to Britain being more than countered by the manual nature of farming in Kenya. Food miles legislation is thus a protectionist device that discriminates against farmers in the far-off third world in favour of local farmers.

Many other factors in the food supply chain contribute to emissions in this sector. Since no firm evidence has been adduced to indicate if the UK consumers stopped eating imported FFV, fewer planes would fly today or in the future, it would be important to give the right information to consumers. The very idea of food miles in particular relation to food that cannot be grown in the UK, is unhelpful and could mislead and confuse consumers. Food miles looks at the distance the food has traveled from farm to retail outlet, which DEFRA in 2005 concluded as a single indicator based on total food kilometers is an inadequate indicator of sustainability. Not only would food miles-based labeling or trade restrictions lead to unconstructive discrimination, it would also lead to consumers developing a false sense of eco-security in the belief that foods with low food miles were always good, and high food miles is bad.

Produce Labeling

The labeling using an air plane only takes care of air miles but there is a need to consider the whole food mile concept from farm to fork to give adequate information to UK consumers. Already some UK supermarkets have put the air plan label and a green aeroplane to signify that although it is airplane flown, it is safely grown and brings development to Kenya would be appropriate.

We pose and ask: considering heightened concerns on global warming, can labeling horticultural produce from Kenya with an airplane symbol lead to a negative perception by consumers who may associate anything with the ‘airplane’ symbol with ozone layer depletion? There is need to ensure that the label does not become discriminatory and therefore act as a Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT). Kenya now is campaigning to have the “Grown under the Sun” symbol to be used as a rallying call to understanding the competitive edge Kenyan products have.

Actions so far

Kenya held a meeting with TESCO, M&S, Kenya representative of HCDA, Kenya Flower Council and Export Promotion Council on 18th and 19th April, 2007, where they agreed to give a joint communication to the UK consumers. In the Royal Show at Coventry (1st to 4th July 2007) the Grown Under the Sun symbol was unveiled and used as a rallying call on our main source of energy for growing. A 5 minute video of Kenya’s horticulture of high impact points has been generated. KOAN has opened a website based petition to be signed by anyone to show support for continuing supply of Kenyan organic produce to international markets despite the intended Soil Association ban, visit (www.koan.co.ke)

Way forward

Recognizing that the debate on food miles will not die off, Kenya will engage market players for a labeling which encompasses colour schemes to allow time for joint efforts to address the consumer concerns on greenhouse gas emissions and promote the “Grown under the Sun” symbol. Kenya will also initiate targeted research on Kenyan horticultural carbon footprints to generate data on all related aspects. The country will enhance current industry commitment to best business practices and renewable technologies that protect the environment. Kenya’s horticulture sub-sector will develop an action plan to tap into the European Commission fund related to the Global climate Change Alliance of Euros 50 million and other sources of funds to make Kenya more responsive to matters related to food miles, green house gases, carbon footprints and the generally the climate change issues.

Our appeal, Trade not Aid

In Kenya, production and export of horticultural produce is labour intensive and creates a lot of employment of skilled and non-skilled labour, both at the rural production areas and at the pack-houses. Small-scale farmers and out-growers depend on money they earn from horticultural crop business to manage and afford the up-keep of their families, afford good food for their health, education of their children and to meet other domestic and household needs towards reduction of poverty in the country.

To ward off the dependency syndrome, more can be achieved from trading opportunities. A one per cent increase in Africa’s share of global trade would deliver seven times more than Africa receives in aid. The Kenyan people wish to appeal for support in horticultural trade by promoting policies that discourage arbitrary implementation of measures in the market that hinder trade especially when it is based on incomplete information. It is important to consider promoting initiatives on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that seek to inform consumers on overall carbon foot prints (from seed to fork) and not just carbon miles.

This focus would not only be factual, but lead to consumers’ choices resulting in significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This would counter the current negative image which seeks to associate pollution with only airfreight in total disregard of other steps in the production chain thereby hampering export from developing countries.

Conclusion

Will labeling result in reduced horticultural trade and increased poverty in Kenya therefore working against Millennium Development Goal Number One which aims at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger? The Food miles concept must include social and economic development parameters.

Kenya supports the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by promoting more trade than aid especially for commodities in which the country has comparative advantage and capabilities such as horticulture. Horticultural exports from Kenya contribute about $ 700 million dollars annually and support over one million persons.

For the millions of horticultural farmers especially the small scale producers, horticultural exports represent the main market option for their produce. The intended Soil Association of the UK ban on air-flown organic produce should be reconsidered as it threatens the benefits of Organic Farming in Third World Countries. As an alternative to trade restriction related to food miles or labeling based on food miles of method of transport, a more appropriate option would be the development of a standard system enabling businesses and industries to identify their carbon footprints and for goods to be labeled according to their own carbon foot prints. This is very much in line what the carbon trust in the UK proposes. Identifying the carbon foot print of goods, including fresh produce, would enable consumers to make an informed and meaningful decision about what they buy. This should go hand in hand with continuing research that Kenya already proposes on the subject.

Carbon foot printing would also help businesses to take advantage of their comparative advantage relating to the production of commodities in specific location at different times of the year.

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3 Responses to “Kenya Declares Stand on Carbon Footprints (Part II)”

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A balance between country’s economic upliftment
through green revolution and carbon foot print
should be made and weighed.

[...] on the debate, some statistics of the UK market and the status of organic agriculture in Kenya. Part II includes more information and an appeal that reads in part… Our appeal, Trade not Aid In [...]

Hi there, after reading this remarkable piece of writing i
am too cheerful to share my experience here with colleagues.


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