Mitigating the water footprint of export cut flowers from the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya

Mesfin Mekonnen, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

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Kenya’s cut-flower industry has been praised as an economic success as it contributed an annual average of US$ 141 million foreign exchange (7% of Kenyan export value) over the period 1996-2005 and about US$ 352 million in 2005 alone. The industry also provides employment, income and infrastructure such as schools and hospitals for a large population around Lake Naivasha. On the other hand, the commercial farms have been blamed for causing a drop in the lake level and for putting the lake’s biodiversity at risk. The objective of this study is to quantify the water footprint within the Lake Naivasha Basin related to cut flowers and assess the potential for mitigating this footprint by involving cut-flower traders, retailers and consumers overseas. The water footprint of one rose flower is estimated to be 7-13 litres. The total virtual water export related to export of cut flowers from the Lake Naivasha Basin was 16 Mm3/yr during the period 1996-2005 (22% green water; 45% blue water; 33% grey water). Our findings show that, although the commercial farms around the lake have contributed to the decline in the lake level through water abstractions, both the commercial farms and the smallholder farms in the upper catchment are responsible for the lake pollution due to nutrient load. The observed decline in the lake level and deterioration of the lake’s biodiversity calls for sustainable management of the basin through pricing water at its full cost and other regulatory measures.
Original languageUndefined
Place of PublicationDelft, the Netherlands
PublisherUnesco-IHE Institute for Water Education
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameValue of water research report 45
PublisherUNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education


  • IR-76915
  • METIS-267209

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