Horticulture in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the second largest flower producer of Africa, after Kenya. The horticulture sector is the largest contributor of export income for the country: 307 million US dollars in 2017/2018. 79% of that is coming from the floriculture sector. The government of Ethiopia invests in infrastructure and support to local and foreign investment in the sector.
Challenges for workers
Whereas the political climate in Ethiopia is conducive for trade and investment, the protection of labor rights remains secondary. The government refuses to set a minimum wage in an attempt to attract more foreign investors. Workers in the horticultural sector are poorly paid, with wages ranging from 25 US dollar to 50 US dollar per month (which is below the World Poverty Line of 1,90 US dollar per day). For Ziway, the region with the most flower farms, a living wage has been calculated at 148 US dollars per month. On top of that, many workers do not have permanent contracts, thus compromising their job security. As a result, they are locked out of workplace benefits such as the right to unionization, leave and social security, among others.
Although trade unions exist to promote workers’ rights, agitation for better working conditions is restricted. Reports have revealed the dismissal and harassment of workers for participating in union work. The political climate for labor rights advocacy prior to the election of the current prime minister was significantly strained. Firstly the registration of CSOs and charitable organizations is restrictive, especially where human rights are considered. Their activities were constantly monitored, with many human rights defenders being incarcerated or harassed for undertaking their work. There is however a significant change with the new government relaxing many of the restrictive regulations. Furthermore, the legal provisions relating to financing of such entities by foreign development partners and donors is heavily restricted, with the consequence that many CSOs have collapsed or been forced out of the human rights sector.
Women are preferred to men for employment in the cut flower, green beans and avocado production. These women however occupy low positions, mostly as unskilled, casual laborers that are also poorly paid. In spite of the high numbers and proportion of women workers, the uptake of women in leadership positions is limited. This has been attributed to a culture characterized by patriarchy which hinders the personal development and career progression of women workers. This leads to unresponsive workplace systems and structures that lack accountability. Women workers are significantly less educated than their male counterparts. They also face many competing demands on their time, often having to balance their housework and farm work.
In partnership with Hivos, the National Federation of Farm, Plantation, Fishery and Agro Industry Trade Unions (NFFPFATU) is implementing a project aimed at enhancing the protection of women workers from sexual harassment at the farms; raising awareness on rights as enshrined in the constitution, labor proclamations and other laws and regulations among workers; and on increasing awareness on collective bargaining mechanisms, skills and conflict handling and management mechanisms among women workers.
- The Labour Proclamation has been revised and through the work of NFFPFATU, a rule to regulate workplace sexual harassment has been introduced. Furthermore, workers who are forced to terminate their contract because of sexual harassment are entitled for compensation payments.
- Through the training of farms and their workers, peaceful conflict management mechanisms are being implemented. Furthermore, the flower unions are able to negotiate for collective bargaining agreements.
- Sexual harassment at flower farms has been decreased through awareness raising workshops.
- The training of women committees has led to an increased knowledge of labor rights among women workers and a better response to sexual harassment cases.