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Oserian supports a number of philanthropic efforts to improve the quality of life in Naivasha – but the PES scheme isn’t the only one of them, says Linda Munyao, the company’s Environmental & Audit Manager.
“This is business. It’s not charity; it’s an investment. We need Lake Naivasha, so if we ensure the lake is there and healthy tomorrow, we are investing in the future of our business,” says Munyao.
“We see a market advantage to being a sustainable company. First, when buyers know we are environmentally friendly, they give preference to Oserian products. Obviously, then we are able to sell more and do better business. Then, we see other companies wanting to emulate what we are doing, and that’s good for Lake Naivasha and for Kenya. Because it’s no good having just one or two businesses be sustainable – we can’t conserve small areas while the rest is crumbling. So we want others to join with us and engage in eco-friendly business.”
Munyao says Oserian is open to having other growers learn from their experience, whether that’s improving irrigation efficiency, creating wetlands on site to treat wastewater, switching to organic fertilizers, using geothermal energy or breeding predator insects to handle pest bugs.
“If you marry yourself closer to nature, it’s a win-win. Nature has been honing its system for millennia. So, it’s going forward by going back to the past. We’re more efficient and cost effective, the plants are healthier and it’s a better working environment,” says Ker.
The Lake Naivasha Growers’ Group is a forum for sharing best practices, promoting conservation and – because it is a business group – ensuring the commercial viability of the region.
“The growers have been effective in advocating for better management of the lake in a way that WWF alone could never be,” says Ndetei. “They make a compelling economic argument, and WWF offers the conservation science. Together, we have gained the attention of the government. But more than their attention, we have gained their trust. The Kenyan government has created a local coordination unit, and is now funding and implementing policies to manage Lake Naivasha sustainably.”
What about the rhinos?
Oserian’s management is aware that the company’s mere presence in the Rift Valley landscape presents responsibilities and opportunities that extend beyond roses and carnations. The 18,000-acre Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 15 white rhinos, alongside healthy populations of buffalos, zebrass – including the threatened Grevy’s zebra – giraffes, antelope, gazelles, warthogs and leopards.
For Ker, the sanctuary embodies the company’s mantra, “conservation through trade.”
“We’ve got to where we are through trade. Without successful trade, we would not be able to develop better farming practices and we could not support wildlife conservation – you could say we are natural champions in safeguarding nature for future generations,” he says.