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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Knowledge sharing: Learning through workshops

By Bob Aston
The Tomato Value Chain Workshop, which took place at Sipili Catholic Church Hall, Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County on 30th September and 1st October 2015 looked at ways of enhancing tomato value chain competitiveness to ensure farmers reap maximum benefits.
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre organized the workshop in collaboration with Kilimo Biashara Promoters, Syngenta Kenya and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF).
Tomatoes being packed in wooden boxes
The convergence of more than 60 farmers enabled discussions on how to share best practices, enhancing farmer’s production skills on tomato and ensuring smallholder farmers play an active role in the value chain. 

After the conclusion of the workshop, some farmers had the opportunity to share testimonials on what they had learned and how they are going to utilize the knowledge gained.

According to Mr. Peter Gicheru, Secretary Matwiku Horticulture Growers self-help group, the workshop enabled 10 members of the group who attended the workshop courtesy of ALIN to improve their knowledge on tomato production.
He was particularly impressed with the session on Integrated Pest and Disease management, value addition, harvesting and post-harvest handling. He noted that from next season the group would start doing value addition to increase profit and shelf life of tomatoes.
“The devastating effect of Tuta absoluta almost made us to realize losses last season. We are now going to adopt an integrated pest management strategy to control the pest in the coming season. The workshop has given us more insight on how we can control the pest,” said Mr. Gicheru.
Mr. Gicheru also had an opportunity to interact with farmers from Wangwachi area and share climate smart agriculture practices with them. He noted that to ensure food secure future, farmers must adopt climate smart agriculture as it results in efficient use of increasingly scarce water.
Farmers using conventional furrow and basin irrigation system
On his part, Mr. James Kimano started tomato farming on an acre farm near Karungubii two years ago. He has faced a myriad of constraints, which have always affected his production. He said that he keenly listened to presentations about drip irrigation, as this is his long-term plan.
“I learned how the Matwiku group has reduced water usage and they can even farm throughout the year. This is impressive and I hope I will start using drip irrigation soon,” said Mr. Kimano.
Mr. Kimano noted that the workshop immensely benefited the farmers as it addressed various constraints in the value chain like unreliable markets, pests and diseases, fluctuating prices, water shortage and poor harvesting and post-harvest handling.
“The workshop addressed strategic interventions like climate smart agriculture technologies, value addition, good agronomics practices, crop rotation, and use of SOKO+ for marketing. Adopting the interventions will help us to increase our productivity, quality of tomatoes and earnings,” said Mr. Kimano.
Wangwachi, Marura, Ol-Mutuny, Ndaragwiti, Monica, and Karungubii are main tomato producing areas in the ward due to availability of dams in the areas. Ol-Moran ward produces close to 100 tonnes of tomato per season with around 40 acres under tomato cultivation. Open field or protected environment like greenhouse are the main ways of growing tomatoes.
Mr. Douglas Kariuki started tomato farming last season but noted that his limited knowledge in crop husbandry prevented him from realizing good returns. He plans to start using Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) to keep records.
“It is unfortunate that I have not been keeping records. I learned that agribusiness lays a lot of emphasis on keeping records as it can help farmers to make informed decision and also to know whether they are making a profit of loss,” said. Mr. Kariuki.
Evidence of high post-harvest losses
He said that the training took place at the right time bearing in mind that the tomato farming season is about to start and that they are now better equipped than previous seasons.
Pests and diseases like white flies and Tuta absoluta are some of the constraints that he has been grappling with. 
Limited knowledge in pest and diseases meant that he always had to rely on such information from agro input dealers. He has ended up buying pesticides, which are not effective because of this.
“I now know about various tomato pests and diseases and how to control them.  The workshop provided me with an opportunity to learn about Integrated Pest and Disease Management,” said Mr. Kariuki.
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 believes that implementing strategic measures of competiveness along the tomato value chain is vital in empowering tomato farmers. The organization is keen in addressing constraints during production, marketing, processing, and consumption.
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