Gabriel Njoroge (right) seeking help from Amiran Kenya Agronomist Wycliffe Obwoge. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.
A Kiambu County farmer, who lost Sh300,000 in a flopped poultry investment, is rising again after venturing into tomato growing with just Sh4,000.
Gabriel Njoroge injected his savings of Sh300,000 in rearing local chicken breeds commonly called kienyeji, in 2014. Loses as a result of poor market for the chicken sunk all his money into losses in a few months.
In April 2015, he planted 400 seedlings as an ‘accident’ trial of tomatoes after observing that the fruit is a favourite of many families, irrespective of societal class.
Although he never knew much about tomato production, his first harvest in July the same year earned him a net profit of Sh30,000 from about an open field quarter an acre in Thika’s Mangu area.
“The crumble from the kienyeji chickens crashed me instead of casting me into profits after such a heavy investment. The more the chickens delayed, the deeper the losses. I thought fast and bounced on bounced on tomatoes. The money from the few sticks was sweet; I have never looked back,” he said.
In July, he planted another set of 400 seedlings for October harvest. After one month, he planted another 400 seedlings to capture the December demand. From each of the seasons, he has earned between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000 depending on the supply, with most of his customers being from Kiamwangi Market, Thika.
Njoroge is gradually increasing land under cultivation as he clears the forest, which covers much of the seven and half acre piece of land. In April this year, he sold a 64 kg crate full of tomatoes at Sh5,000, earning him Sh80,000.
“I was born and raised in town. My skills in marketing are more than farming. Tomatoes have been doing well even with the little knowledge I have. If am not sure of what to do when there is a problem in the shamba, I consult fellow farmers,” he said.
He has been using watering can to irrigate the tomatoes, but as more acreages come under cultivation, Njoroge is moving to his father’s 1976 pump.
Irrigation would put him ahead of other tomato farmers from other regions like Kinangop who rely on rain for production.
In the expansion plan, he has included cucumbers. He planted 100 seedlings two weeks ago and he is looking forward to growing another set in fortnight.
The secret in varying the transplanting date is to ensure harvesting is done at different times. This would cushion him against losses following large harvests, which present marketing challenges.