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My mum’s flowery career

For over a decade, Jane Ngige made the flower industry blossomed. Her daughter, Wanjiru Ngige tells us more about the former CEO of Kenya Flower Council

Many know Jane Ngige as a Kenya Flower Council (KFC) CEO. Who is she as a mother?

When we were young, she was that strict mother  who couldn’t tolerate laziness. She taught me how to read, a hobby I still enjoy. She is also jovial, usually smiling and laughing. As a family, we travelled a lot together. She is a prayerful person and a firm believer, and introduced me to Christianity. Now, she is also my friend and I enjoy speaking and spending time with her. She is beautiful inside out.

Before joining KFC, what was she doing?

She worked for Green Belt Movement as a deputy to the late Wangari Maathai.

She has been in KFC for over a decade. What does she pride herself in?

She was the CEO of KFC from 2004 until her retirement a few months back. She is credited with having introduced transformative reforms and changing negative industry perceptions while driving it to unprecedented records. Kenya made its debut into the Eastern European market, which is quite lucrative. Major strides have also been achieved in the Japanese market, which is  prestigious. Becoming the number one supplier of roses there was a huge step.

She is now at the helm of Kenya Horticultural Council, an umbrella body of fresh produce exporters. What is her strategy for the broader horticulture industry?

She sees this as another stab at doing what she loves. Unlike flowers, the key issue with fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices is food safety. If the exports can effectively adopt the responsibility of ensuring food safety across the value chain, the results of that will percolate to the domestic level. We only export 4 to 7 per cent from our horticultural production in Kenya. The rest goes to domestic market. That paltry export percentage is worth Sh130 billion. The value of what we produce is approximately Sh400 billion. About 40 per cent of what we produce goes to waste due to post-harvest handling. Her vision is to cascade the good practices that have been catalysed by export market requirements into local markets to achieve the expectations of government’s food security pillar of enough, accessible, affordable and nutritious food.

How does she wish to achieve this?

The council is already working on a project with Nairobi county targeting one open air market to initiate these practices. Ultimately, the idea is to create model markets with these parameters, supported by government, that can be emulated by other markets. That would be enough to tame all the losses and shore up domestic contribution to the industry. So, her hope is to see an organised fresh produce distribution system.

Despite working for the flower industry for many years, she confessed, she hated Valentine’s Day. Why is this so?

According to her, Valentine’s Day is the biggest season for flowers, hence more demanding. There is a lot of attention on the industry from within and abroad. So she was always busy around that time.

Apart from being a CEO, what else is she involved in?

She is a farmer. She is also a grandmother and likes spending time with her grandchildren. Further, she spends time with the many women groups of which she is a member.

What qualities do you admire most in her?

She is compassionate. We talk of giving someone a second chance, but mum gives 10 chances at least. She is always there for all who need her. She has a good sense of humour and can be a lot of fun to be with. I also admire her integrity and character.

Briefly tell us about youself?

I work as a lawyer here in Nairobi.

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