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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Farmers share tree tomato value chain workshop experiences

By Bob Aston
Farmer knowledge sharing is essential to the successful adoption of good agricultural practices. Opportunities provided by workshop, field days and other forums play an important role in allowing farmers to bring their unique skills and perspectives together to address various challenges that they face.
Production of Tree tomato or “matunda ya damu” In Kiswahili has been on the increase in Sipili area of Ol-Moran ward in Laikipia West Sub County in recent years, however, farmers have never been able to get an opportunity to interact and share information about the fruit.
Picture of tree tomatoes
The convergence of more than 70 farmers, at Sipili Catholic Church Hall in September 23-24, 2015 enabled discussions on how to share best practices and enhance farmer’s production skills on Tree tomato.
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre organized the workshop in collaboration with Kilimo Biashara Promoters and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF).
Mrs. Lucy Wairimu Maina has had many challenges with fruit flies. They have been feeding on the fruits and other parts of tree tomatoes. She has been incurring heavy losses because of this. The training enabled her to learn more about the pest.
“I now know that field sanitation, quarantine and baiting by use of delude mixture of Naturalure with water is the best solution. The pest will no longer be a problem now as I am equipped to handle the challenge,” said Mrs. Maina.
She has more than 100 tree tomato trees in a quarter an acre but after the workshop, she learned that the required quantity in a quarter an acre is 250 trees. She now intends to increase production to 1000 trees in an acre piece of land.
Water scarcity has been an issue as most of her trees had dried up due to lack of water. She believes that water will no longer be a problem after learning about the importance of mulching.
Farmers following proceedings during the workshop
“Mulching can help to preserve moisture in the soil and it can also be a strategy to suppress weeds, as other soil management techniques are not possible due to the shallow and sensitive tree tomato root system,” says Mrs. Maina.
On his part, Mr. Peter Wamuge has planted 130 tree tomato trees but now wants to increase production. 
He plans to start value addition to increase profits and the shelf life of the fruits. He noted that post-harvest losses have been a major concern but he is now glad that he has been able to learn how to reduce losses.
“I learned about processing, packaging, sorting, and grading. Initially I never did this as required. I want to start by making tree tomato jam. I learned that peeled, sliced, and seeded tree tomatoes, with lemon rind, lemon juice, and sugar, are cooked to a jam,” Said Mr. Wamuge.
Mr. Wamuge will host a tree tomato field day at his farm in Kahuruko area of Ol-Moran Ward on 22nd of October 2015. He plans to start doing value education before the field day.
Douglas Kariuki has been planning to plant tree tomato but he lacked enough information about the plant. When he heard from a friend that there would be a tree tomato value Chain Workshop he decided to attend.
During the workshop, calculation of the cost benefit analysis impressed him. He said that the gross margin is good and he now plans to plant an acre of tree tomato. Since tree tomatoes are sensitive to drought stress, he is planning to harvest run off water to ensure that he has a constant supply of water.
Farmers being taken through tree tomato pests and diseases
“Production practices were extensively covered during the workshop. I will cultivate the red fruit variety. The information that I gained particularly on ecological requirements, propagation, field establishment and pruning will be invaluable when I start implementing what I learned,” said Mr. Douglas.
On his part, Mr. Peter Muturi started Tree tomato farming in 2011 under Sipili Passion Growers S.H.G. He has been training tree tomato farmers from Sipili on how to cultivate the plant. 
He noted that the workshop improved his knowledge on its production and he will inculcate the same to other farmers.
Mr. Muturi has half an acre under tree tomato. He has planted 150 trees per quarter but after the training, he is now planning to increase number of trees to 250. He noted that learning about soil analysis has given him an insight about the importance of soil management. He plans to have his soil analyzed so that he can know the required nutrient requirements of his farm.
 “It is clear that I have been wasting a lot of space. I have to change this to ensure that I maximize my profit. An extra 200 plants in the same piece of land is really impressive,” said Mr. Muturi.
The workshop also discussed a myriad of issues that included production practices, agribusiness, soil management, marketing, record keeping, Integrated pests and disease management, harvesting and post-harvest management, cost benefit analysis, value addition and SOKO+ sms platform.
ALIN has strategically focused its efforts to improve the livelihoods of arid lands communities in East Africa through delivery of practical information using modern technologies. The organization has been organizing various capacity building trainings for Ol-Moran Ward farmers.
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