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Thursday, 29 October 2015

Tree tomato farmers pride value addition field day

By Simon Munyeki
Tree tomato production is one of the profitable venture farmers in arid and low potential regions can greatly benefit from. This is because tree tomato does well in this kind of regions and less prone to diseases as well as pest infestation and attains quick maturity within six months.
A single tree tomato can yield as much as 20 kg of fruits in a single season if well maintained; a tree tomato farmer can harvest as much as 20 metric tonnes per acre making more returns as compared to a maize farmer working on the same size of land in a year.
Mr. Moses Lokwawi from MOALF training farmers on crop agronomics
In order to promote the value chain, the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society held a farmer field day on tree tomato at Peter Wamugi’s farm at Kahuruko area in Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia West Sub County on October 22, 2015.
Farmers who attended the field day learned different means on how to maximize their profit margins through value addition. 

Farmers learned how to prepare chemical free tree tomato juice , tree tomato jam as well as tree tomato vegetables  which will be highly welcomed in the market  to replace the current inorganic products with organic which would be healthy  for  the consumers.
The field day attracted exhibitors from different fields, which highly benefited members of the community who turned up in high numbers.
 According to Mr. Kariuki Muigai, such field days need to occur frequently, as information from different fields is available during such events. This enables community members to easily share information and learn from each other.
He said training on proper use and safe handling of farm chemicals was a vital lesson as he managed to learn how to take care of his tree tomato. He is particularly happy that he is now more educated on how to control fruit flies, nematodes, tree tomato worm, powdery mildew, and tree tomato mosaic virus.
“I am particularly happy that I learned about pests and diseases. This is an issue that has been troubling me for quite some time,” said Mr. Kariuki.
Farmers learning about solar cookers
On her part, Mrs. Mercy Muthoni noted that training on making organic tree tomato jam, juice, and vegetables made her day. She said that the nutritional value and the importance of the fruit would now make her to ensure it is part of her daily diet.
She managed to visit the Household Economic Empowerment Programme (HEEP), an initiative of Laikipia County Government aimed at reducing poverty level in the county. At the stand, she learned that kitchen garden is a simple method of farming that produce fresh fruit and vegetables for delicious, healthy meals.
“I will ensure that my household is food and nutrition secure by adopting kitchen garden model. I now know that having a kitchen garden will ensure that I have constant supply of vegetables throughout the year,” said Mrs. Muthoni.
Laikipia produce and marketing cooperative society used the opportunity provided by the field day to train farmers on use of hermetic bags. The Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) attracted the attention of many farmers who thronged their exhibition stand to learn about the storage bags.
Mr. Julius Kariuki noted that use of hermetic bags is a great step in promoting healthy storage practices to the farmers who are cautious on their health. He said that he learned that the bag is a viable management tool for preventing aflatoxin accumulation in storage.
“I learned that the hermetic bag minimizes post-harvest losses, they are insecticide free, and the quality of stored grains does not decline,” said Mr. Kariuki.
He said that once his grains have dried to the required moisture content he will procure some of the bags from the cooperative store.

Mrs. Elcy Kigano,MOALF giving tree tomato jam sample to participants
Similarly, Mr. Daniel Maina praised the organizers of the field day. He noted that he got an opportunity to learn advancements in the solar technology. 

He learned about solar cookers and solar lamps, which he said would benefit many people and help on reduction of environmental pollution. He urged communities to embrace solar cookers instead of using wood as fuel.
“I have learned that solar cookers are the simplest, safest, and most convenient way of cooking without consuming fuel or polluting the environment. We need to embrace solar technology as one of the initiatives of attaining zero environmental pollution,” said Mr. Maina.
He requested for ALIN and other agriculture stakeholders to organize more field days and workshops for farmers in order to empower them with technology and knowledge that can ensure they practice agribusiness.
ALIN and partners are keen in addressing constraints in tree tomato value chain during production, marketing, processing, and consumption. The organizations organized the field day to allow farmers to bring their unique skills and perspectives together to address various challenges that they face.
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