Kenya supplies more than 35% of the cut flowers, including roses, sold in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The industry provides a critical source of foreign exchange and employs more than 90,000 Kenyans, 65-70% of whom are women. While floriculture generates wealth, it also generates controversy. Critics point out poor working conditions and raise concerns about the environmental impacts of rose production.
Dr. Styles, a cultural anthropologist, has conducted research since 2004 near Lake Naivasha, where 70% of Kenyan flowers are grown. She will describe what life is like for workers on Kenyan rose farms, as well as attempts to regulate this lucrative but controversial industry. Her talk will focus on how Kenyans understand this industry and what they hope to achieve by growing roses for European markets. Understanding Kenyan perspectives on floriculture provides insight into future trends in African political and economic development.
Megan Styles is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Washington Seattle, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on sustainable agricultural development, rural livelihoods, and conservation issues in the United States and East Africa. She is the co-editor of CultureAgriculture Food & Environment (CAFF).
Dr. Styles is the author of Roses from Kenya: Labor, Environment, and the Global Trade in Cut Flowers (2019, University of Washington Press). She teaches courses focused on environmental sustainability, the human dimensions of environmental issues, and sustainable food systems.