Amazing Grace

We’re celebrating our 25-year partnership with Fairtrade, so it’s a good excuse to invite Kenyan rose grower Grace Otieno to the UK to tell us the benefits of working on a Fairtrade-certified farm

Back in 2007, Co-op started selling Fairtrade roses. That same year, Grace started working on one of Flamingo Horticulture’s Fairtrade-certified farms in Kenya’s Naivasha region, which supplies Co-op with millions of blooms every year. The flower industry in Kenya is huge, providing a source of income for two million people. What’s more, Kenyan roses produce five and a half times less greenhouse gas emissions than those grown in Europe*, so it’s an environmental win as well. Regular readers of Co-op Food might remember that we met Grace two years ago, (as pictured below, from our February 2018 issue) when we visited her in Kenya to chat about her life, her hopes for the future, and the difference Fairtrade has made to her.

Warm welcome

This time, we’ve repaid the hospitality by inviting Grace to the UK. It’s a real adventure for her, since she’s never been outside of Kenya before. What does she think of the UK? ‘It’s very beautiful,’ she tells us. ‘I’m loving every minute of it. People have shown me a lot of love.’ In the lead-up to February, things are especially busy on Grace’s farm, where they’ve been growing roses for Valentine’s Day. We’ve brought her to Manchester’s Market Street Co-op to see the beautiful flowers she helped grow for sale instore. ‘It’s so amazing!’ she beams. ‘I’m really happy to see my flowers in the shop. I know sales will mean the Fairtrade Premium (see below) will rise, and by buying my flowers, Co-op customers are touching and changing so many lives. ‘My flowers are very special,’ Grace continues.

‘We grow 30 different types of rose in 10 different colours. We focus on quality, producing the absolute best flowers possible. Flamingo Horticulture is a special business — it has extremely high sustainability standards** and has been certified by the Kenya Flower Council.’ After her tour of the Co-op store, Grace joins Co-op staff and colleagues at our offices, where she talks to us about what Fairtrade means to her, her family, other women and the local community as a whole. ‘Fairtrade makes me feel proud,’ she says. ‘Without it, our lives would be bad. The Fairtrade Premium pays for 50% of my son Brian’s secondary school fees. He’s studying hard and wants to become a doctor.’

Sharing the love

Many of Grace’s co-workers and their families have benefitted from bursaries provided through the Fairtrade Premium. These have enabled the families of workers to pursue secondary and higher education, which they would not have otherwise been able to afford. Thanks to this, none of them will experience the levels of poverty that many of their parents faced growing up. In addition, Fairtrade has helped Grace and her co-workers to access further training for themselves.

‘Fairtrade has helped a lot of women like me,’ says Grace. ‘Thanks to the funding it provides for courses and training, women are feeling more confident and able to stand up to take their positions in their communities. ‘I am vice-chair of my farm’s Fairtrade Premium committee, which decides how the money will be spent. My community has voted to fund some great projects, from loans for women to take courses like hairdressing and business, to funding a crèche at Madaraka Primary School in Kenya. This means women are able to leave their babies somewhere safe and go to work happy.

‘This year, I got my certificate in business management, and learned lots of new skills, like leadership, project management and financial skills — all funded by the Fairtrade Premium. I was also promoted from harvester to supervisor, and now manage 24 people and 3 hectares of roses. So, as you can see, Fairtrade has helped me get a better job. ‘In my local community, the committee funded lots of projects, from water pumps to books for our libraries. It’s truly amazing.’

And finally, Grace has a special message: ‘To everyone who buys flowers, I’d like to say it’s very important to buy Fairtrade. It can touch a life. My situation has been changed because of Fairtrade, which I appreciate very much. So please go out and buy bunches of Fairtrade flowers!’ Stories like Grace’s are the reason that we’ve been committed to supporting Fairtrade for the last 25 years — and will continue to work and grow with its producers in the future. It’s what we do.

What is the Fairtrade Premium?

The Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money that goes into a communal fund for employees. They can use the money as they see fit in order to improve their communities’ social, economic and environmental conditions. This extra money is what makes Fairtrade stand out from similar organisations. Farmers like Grace, for instance, receive an extra 10% per rose stem, which they use to fund projects, such as new classrooms and medical facilities, that benefit everyone in the community.


Roses are traditional on Valentine’s Day, but they’re a lovely way to show someone you care on any occasion. As a bonus, when you buy one of our beautiful Fairtrade bouquets, you know that you’re helping women like Grace.

  1. Fairtrade Irresistible Single Rose
  2. Fairtrade Dozen Roses
  3. Fairtrade Mixed Dozen Roses
  4. Bumper Mixed Fairtrade Roses

* fairtrade.org.uk/media-centre/blog/2019/february/6-reasons-why-you-should-buy-fairtrade-flowers. ** flamingo.net/sustainability