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    Farmers can reduce post harvest losses linked to rotting by growing a new tomato hybrid variety, tylka F1, which lasts for more than 20 days after harvesting. 

    The extended shelf-life allows for more time to reach far-flung markets as well as selling for more days when demand is low, therefore, reducing incidences of post harvest loses.

    A 2015 study by Kenyatta University established that farmers incur post harvest losses of up to 31 per cent because they cannot access far markets on time. More losses result from rotting when the demand is low because of lugged buying.

    Syngenta’s agronomist Moureen Namusonge says the hybrid remains strong for more than 21 days after harvesting, allowing for transportation from remote production areas to urban markets.

    “Tylka F1 has a strong skin. This characteristic has been achieved through breeding. It enables the fruit to remain firm for a long period. Selling everything that one has produced ensures profitability in agribusiness,” she said.

    Most tomato varieties deteriorate after 14 days. Subsequently, farmers and traders are forced to sell the produce at throw away prices to salvage their investment, forfeiting profits.

    Low tomato producing areas like Mombasa County depend on upcountry produce, a factor that keeps prices high in this coastal city almost all year round.

     High demand for tomatoes in Mombasa with a kilo fetching Sh130

    Most farmers are narrowing down to greenhouse farming to maximise profits because they can micromanage most of the conditions.

    Tylka does well in a greenhouse set-up. It is high yielding too in open fields. A farmer requires 1,000 seedlings for a standard 8m by 15 m greenhouse.

    One acre will require about 10,000 seedlings, giving an average of 75 tonnes under proper management practices.

    In Nairobi, one kilogramme of tomatoes costs about Sh100.

    The seedlings mature in 75 days after transplanting, with production extending to more than four months. The oval fruits weigh between 100 grammes and 130 grammes.

    Disease resistant tomato variety can earn Sh3 million

    Management practices include timely staking to support the stem in carrying the fruits, pruning, weeding, pests and diseases control, irrigation, among others.

    Chemicals for pests and diseases control increase production costs for farmers.

    Tomato yellow leaf virus, mosaic virus, green leaf spot, fusarium crown and root rot are some of the diseases the variety is resistant to.

    It can also withstand nematode pests, which are highly destructive.

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    Human-wildlife conflict has become a thorny issue especially now that farmers are opening up more forests for economic benefits.

    Threatened wild animals attack humans as they invade farms for livestock or crops for food because of the shrinking land resource.

    Farmers bordering conservancies, for example those in the counties of Nyeri, Meru, Kajiado, Taita-Taveta, among others have to use all means available to keep wildlife away.

    While poachers are using sophisticated weapons to kill big game for their various valuables items like tusks, farmers are poisoning the animals to keep them away from destroying crop.

    Poison transfer

    Tim Snow of Wildlife Poisoning Prevention and Conflict Resolution warns that the poison is more likely to be counter-productive besides having lasting negative effects to the ecosystem.

    Poisoning is indiscriminate. It can even pose a danger to human health and domesticated animals. Poison passes through the food chain and very often will kill many more animals than the farmer intended.

    Dogs for instance, would feed on the carcass of poisoned animals. Before death, it can drink water from the animal watering points. If they die at home, burying them moves the poison into the home environment.

    Poison contaminates water sources and other environmental components close and further away-most animals tend to die away from poisoning sources, with more others running to water sources.

    Non-chemical

    Elephants from the Tsavo National Park are the commonest food invaders in Taita-Taveta while monkeys destroy potatoes, fruits, maize in counties around Mount Kenya.

    Bees keeping errant elephants away from farms in Taita-Taveta

    At the same time, Snow says, killing smaller animals is causing more homestead invasions from the wild. He argues that killing antelopes for instance, after they destroy maize, would invite the lion, leopard, or cheetah to the farmer’s home in search of livestock.

    This is common with Maasai of Kajiado County, where lions from Nairobi National Park are a real menace.

    “Pastoralists experience conflict with predators like lions raiding bomas at night. If there is a healthy wildlife population the boma can be protected and there is enough prey for the carnivores,” Snow says.

    Secret lion dung saving livestock and crops

    Using more biological methods to keep off wildlife is the most viable method of ensuring sustainable coexistence.

    Lion dung

    Smaller animals are scared away from crop fields by smelling lion dung. The animals think the lion is within the region.

    Others like elephants, which do not fear the lion, can be kept off the farm by strapped beehives, which will shake while the beasts are trespassing. Elephants dread bees.

     

    Wildlife Poisoning Prevention and Conflict Resolution is a non-governmental organisation working in East and Southern Africa.

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