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It’s been 8 months since two of our farms in Kenya – Hamwe farm and Livewire farm – merged into one big farm; Kariki Naivasha farm. Management teams and facilities were combined and it is now one strong entity. We talked to Esao Otuodi, who is the farm manager of this new farm, about the process of the merger and his talent of bringing people together.

1+1 = 1

Before the merger, Esao was farm manager at Livewire, which was one of our partner farms. In preparation of the fusion, he was trained on servant leadership, communication and on merging teams. Esao: “I was very well prepared, so when the time came it went on quite smoothly. We had done the ground work and everything fell into place. A lot of colleagues from Livewire were transferred to Kariki Naivasha. We had been practicing Kaizen before, but now we switched to Hamuka culture, with the main difference being the part of people empowerment. People now own their processes. Looking back, compared to a year ago, people are happier. They feel better and realise that Marginpar is looking after them. My own work has also improved because with empowerment of people, I have been handed more time to focus on innovations and to look after the people on the ground in a much better way. It has become easier for me to lead the team.”

Value adder in Eryngium Magnetar Questar® flower field in Kenya

Leading from the front

Esao’s days can be very variable, but each morning starts with meeting the heads of the departments, to make sure everything is okay. Esao: “Once I know that everybody is okay and everything is well, I handle messages from partners, suppliers, colleagues in the Netherlands, etc. But my main priority for each day is to be in the field, to see where there is need for support, whether it be in terms of giving advice, coaching people in the field, or lending a helping hand. It is my job to lead from the front, not to sit on the fence and tell, but really show. I look for opportunities for improvement, rather than ‘problems’. We discuss these challenges and together we come up with innovative ideas.”

Hypericum flower field in Kenya

Empowered transport

Esao: “We always say that obstacles are best overcome by the people who are doing the work in the field; the shoe wearers. One of the improvements we have made lately is in the empowerment of the transport team. They work with machines to bring the freshly harvested flowers to the packhouse. The machines would occasionally break down, causing delays in our processes. In the past they would bring the machine to me and I had to have it repaired. Now we have trained the team and set up a schedule to check the machines on a regular basis so that any issues are detected early on, before a complete breakdown. It has been working very well.”

The final piece of the puzzle

Empowerment and team work are top priority for Esao. Team work has proven to be of great importance over the past year. Esao: “We were struggling with Hypericum and Gypsophila quality. I brought the production and post-harvest teams together because they were ‘seeing different trees’. From there we were able to pull away from the conflict, and focus on the flowers. Together we looked at what we could do on the production side and what we could do on the post-harvest side. Since then, the teams have been working together and quality of both crops is now top-class. All ingredients for success were there before, but what was lacking was for people to work as a team.”

Value adder in a Gypsophila Xlence® flower field in Kenya

It has been an eventful couple of months, but we can truly say that Kariki Naivasha farm is functioning as one very strong entity. Esao: “What I have really seen the past year, is that when you empower people and take good care of them, they will always go out or their way to look after their work. Even in times when I can’t visit the fields as often as I like, people are very motivated, work very hard and deal with any challenges that come up. Together we have built a farm to be proud of.”