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How do those in northern winter climates get roses to their loved ones in February for Valentine’s Day? The answer is to import them from warmer climates.

Kenya offers the perfect climate for flowers year-round. Its floriculture industry covers land near a shallow lake near the equator. Lake Naivasha is one of the few freshwater lakes in East Africa. Its depth varies from 2 to 8 meters, and the surface area as shown in the 2023 Landsat image is about 150 square km.

Direct rainfall on the lake and three rivers feed freshwater to the lake. The Gilgil and Malewa are perennial rivers, and Karati is a seasonal river. The Malewa contributes up to 90% of the water to the lake. The lake has no surface outlet—it is referred to as an endorheic lake. In most endorheic lakes, salts are left behind when the lake water evaporates. That is, the salts are not washed out through an outlet to another outgoing river. Lake Naivasha, however, maintains its freshwater status because the lake water seeps into the ground, taking the salts with it.

The wetland areas around the Lake Naivasha support not only the large flower industry but also fishing, tourism, and geothermal power. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cut flowers are exported from Kenya to Europe and other countries. As of 2018, Kenya has 38% of the European Union’s market for cut flowers.

The region offers steady sunlight and days that vary very little in length. Lake Naivasha is not far from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and largest city, about 90 km away. So transport is relatively easy. The Nairobi airport has a terminal dedicated to transporting flowers and vegetables.

Still, the industry has had challenges. In recent years, workers have been laid off because of lower demand and higher costs. The increase in agriculture has put pressure on the water resources of the area, affecting the water quality of the lake.

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Jan. 31, 1973, Landsat 1 (path/row 181/61) — Lake Naivasha, Kenya
Feb. 3, 2023, Landsat 8 (path/row 169/60) — Lake Naivasha, Kenya

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References

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