A flower cannot bloom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love. Life is not defined by where you start off but where you eventually end up . . . well these are all proverbs that my grandmother used to tell me as I was growing up.
I never took them seriously until my encounter with Robert Nhekede a Harare-based florist who found beauty and comfort in his work.
Having been born and bred in Kadoma, Chikomba district, Robert decided to take up the life of a florist after completion of his secondary education at Daramombe Mission when his parents simply could no longer afford to sponsor his tertiary education.
Although he had a desire to attain a tertiary education, Robert did not let his financial situation derail his other passion becoming a top florist.
In a lengthy chat with this publication Robert said since he was young he had the love for flowers, “flowers always made him a happy man”, he said.
In the year 2002 Robert joined the crew at corner Second street and Jason Moyo in Harare.
“Flowers are beautiful, they calm me down. It is my belief that the world is beautiful so that we could have the pleasure of enjoying it. A flower is a testimony that the world is designed for our enjoyment.”
“Selling flowers is not that easy in Zimbabwe.
“Compared to other foreign countries, flowers are not really appreciated and we do not have a proper space to sale our bouquets so we often sell for big functions like weddings, parties and funerals because a few individuals buy these,” said Nhekede.
A few flower brokers generally buy most of the produce and distribute them to local retail outlets after a significant mark-up. The retail florist shops usually operate on roadsides with little or no protection for flowers.
Nhekede said, “It is time that we as a country start investing towards setting up auction centres, as well as organise floral shops with better storage facilities to prolong vase life of cut flowers.
“These horticultural products present an opportunity for various exporters as every flower is significant to various people out there and this will increase the inflow of foreign currency.
“The opportunities existing in this business are proper development of high quality flowers and bouquet for domestic and overseas markets which is a disadvantage to us,” he said.
He said most of the quality flowers are being exported before local buyers get them to design their bouquets which is a factor pulling them down.
“The challenges which the flower crew faces are that some popular flowers are exported for various uses such as roses for rose oil and tubes and jasmines among others. These flowers are over-supplied in international market and this causes lack of quality and quantity assurance of products for maintaining our local market share.”
Zimbabwe used to be one of the largest exporters of a wide range of horticultural products in Africa, supplying overseas markets including Europe and the Middle East. For instance, citrus exports peaked in 2001 at 45 000 tonnes, being 60 percent of fresh produce output. In 2002, Zimbabwe exported cut flowers worth $60 million, according to ZimTrade, making it the second largest exporter after Kenya.
Robert highlighted that he is targeting to grow his business and start supplying his products internationally.