Ethiopian Council of Ministers Decrees All Flower Farms Must Be Certified

The cut flower industry is one of Ethiopia’s largest exporters
The cut flower industry is one of Ethiopia’s largest exporters

A Horticulture Development Regulation, drafted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to regulate the sector’s code of conduct, was approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday, February 25, 2011.

The regulation will take effect once it is published in the official Negarit Gazeta in the coming weeks.

The regulation was drafted as part of the government’s bid to prevent adverse environmental and social effects caused by the sector, create a competitive market, and improve the quality of the products, according to the document approved by the council.

No company can engage in farming flowers unless it acquires certification from the EPA, that the company fulfils its social and environmental responsibilities, the regulation stipulates.

Companies would be categorised as gold, silver, or bronze, as outlined in the regulation. The authority is mandated by the regulation to audit companies that apply for the bronze certificate and to ensure they meet the requirements, which include the implementation of international farming methods and deploying complaint hearing schemes for visitors and other stakeholders.

Companies who request bronze certification, i.e. the basic requirement, must fulfil 13 requirements including not using banned or unregistered chemicals, having an environmentally friendly waste disposal system, and providing its employees with medical services.

For silver certification, the second category, companies are required to provide a social and environmental auditing mechanism, develop efficient ways of utilising water sources, establish best practices in stock storage and pesticide use, as well as provide mechanisms whereby visitors and other stakeholders can forward comments.

To attain the third and highest category, gold, companies must fulfill all the requirements for the bronze and silver certification as well as meet two additional requirements: Contribute towards community development programmes and engage in environmental conservation schemes.

The EPA is to outsource the certification to independent entities, the document stated. Companies that can prove there is no conflict of interest, employ experts able to implement the regulation, and that are willing to assist in determining the price cap, to be announced by the authority, can offer their services.

“To avoid a conflict of interest, the authority will outsource the verification process,” said Wondwossen Sintayehu, director of Environmental Law Forum Policy and Action Directorate at the EPA. “Once the regulation is officially issued in the Negarit Gazeta, interested companies will be invited to come up with proposals.”

Proposals on social and environmental protection by qualified experts as well as finance audits by independent auditors must be presented by any company requesting the certification, the document states further.

The EPA can request the certifier to investigate the applicant’s documents and conduct inspections before issuing the certificate. However, the Authority is obliged to provide the certification within five working days after acquiring the necessary information from the certifier. Certificates must be renewed every two years, prior to which the authority must verify that the company has been acting in accordance with standards.

The authority is to employ inspectors to ensure the implementation of the regulation, as stipulated in the regulation that provides them with the power to undertake impromptu inspections, demand information from farms, as well as confiscate material or documents as evidence necessary for inspection without paying for it or without a court order.

The EPA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Addis Abeba University (AAU) five years ago to pool their resources (exports) to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study and develop a waste management system, Wondwossen said further.

However, some are calling for the strengthening of the implementation process.

“Having a regulation is a step forward by the EPA, but it should follow up on implementation,” said Haile Tefera, manager of Environment and Climate Change at World Vision. “The flower companies use different chemicals that are hazardous to the health of employees and the soil. They need a regulatory body to control their waste disposal.”

The EPA has had three discussions with members of the horticulture associations, and received positive feedback, according to Wondwossen.

In May 2010, the nation’s total number of horticulture producing and exporting enterprises reached around 120, out of which 55 are rose growers that generated 170 million dollars in revenues from exports during the 2009/10 fiscal year. Fruits and vegetables fetched 314.6 million dollars in the same period.

Mahlet Mesfin,  Addis Fortune