A report by the Center for Evaluation (CEval) published in the UK for Valentine’s Day by the Fairtrade Foundation shows that Fairtrade has boosted rural development in the flower sector.

According to the study, working conditions on Fairtrade-certified flower plantations in Kenya are significantly better than on their non-Fairtrade certified counterparts.

Areas such as health and safety, access to micro credit, education and training, gender relations and community development were all identified as adding value for workers and their communities.

Around 37,500 workers are employed on Fairtrade flower farms, 47 per cent of whom are women, and sales have generated £3.8 million in Fairtrade premium funds. Although Fairtrade International works mainly with farms in Kenya there are also plantations in Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Egypt. Farms range from 12 hectares to 170 hectares. The smallest employ 200 people and the largest some 8,000.

Fairtrade flowers account for one per cent of the total UK flower market and are worth an estimated £26.5m in retail sales. Some 72 million stems of Fairtrade flowers are sold each year in the UK and 362 million stems globally

In addition to the flower sector, the study also evaluated a range of qualitative and quantitative data and case studies from other sectors including bananas.

It found that farmers and workers on Fairtrade certified co-operatives and plantations receive a slightly higher and more stable income. 64 per cent of those surveyed reported being able to save some money, compared with 51 per cent of the non-Fairtrade comparison group. While 85 per cent of workers at the featured Fairtade certified flower plantations have a permanent contract of employment, fewer than 20 per cent do in the compared conventional plantations.

Mike Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation said: “The research shows that Fairtrade creates an improved income and contributes to poverty reduction in rural areas. In regions with strong Fairtrade representation, such as rose cultivation in Kenya, conventional farmers have even started copying Fairtade standards, for example when it comes to increasing wages or improving their working conditions.”