How climate change threatens agri-business and livelihoods in Africa

Jambo Flower Farms is situated 30 minutes drive out of Kampala, the capital of Uganda and produces cut roses for the high-end European market. Jambo employs 450 people and has a turnover of USD4.3m. The industry as a whole has a turnover of USD 18m. However, it faces a new threat to their business – a pest made more prevalent by climate change is threatening access to their only market the EU.

The EU is now inspecting all imports of flowers from Uganda for this pest. According to Jambo, there is the risk that they may close the market entirely to Ugandan flowers. Last month, the local press reported that industry has survived a ban for the time being. Mr Varghese, the Farm Manager of Jambo says they understand why the EU wants to protect its industry from the pest, but are unsure of what the EU is going to do. Closing the market “can destroy the industry” says the manager. They are 100% dependent on the EU market staying open as there is no domestic market to sell the flowers. Their business would be ruined if the market closes.

Mr X, Farm Manager of Jambo Flower Farms, Uganda

Mr Varghese, Farm Manager of Jambo Flower Farms, Uganda

Two species of moth have in the last three years been increasingly found on the crop due to increasing temperatures. One moth, called Helicoverpa armigera ruins the appearance of the rose, which means they have to be thrown out. The other moth Spodoptera litteralis has more serious implications for the business.Twice this year the EU inspectors have found the moths and destroyed the consignments. The EU inspectors charge the firm for the destruction and ongoing inspections.

Identification sheets for staff to catch the bugs

Identification sheets for staff to catch the bugs

The pest is already imposing costs on the business in Uganda. According to the Field Manager, out of the 140,000 stems produced a day, 4,000 are discarded due to the bug infestations. This year, the company has had to employ 10% extra staff to check for eggs on the plants.

Next stop, Entebbe airport

Next stop, Entebbe airport

There is no pesticide currently available that kills the eggs. As a result, Josephine Drijaru, the production manager has her own method to hunt and kill the caterpillars. Her “scouts” in the greenhouses spot the eggs under the leaves. She takes some to her office and puts them in a jar. When they hatch, she orders the crop to be sprayed. However, the risk remains that another consignment could arrive in the Netherlands with infestation.

Production Manager of Jambo farms explaining how her flowers are cultivated

Production Manager Josephine Drijaru of Jambo Farms explaining how her flowers are cultivated (photo; Martina Bozzola)

Climate change induced pests and diseases are raising the cost of agri-business in Africa. This is an example of how 450 employees of one firm are now in a highly vulnerable situation. In the short term, the firm has no choice but to continue producing one crop for one market. In the longer term, the industry will have to diversify and find technical solution to adapt its production to climate change.

The packing workers having a late afternoon football match

The packing workers having a late afternoon football match

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