A prison warder in Kiambu county has grafted the much vilified Sodom apple with tomatoes with the new variety now having a longer shelf life and capable of withstanding pests and diseases. The discovery has also been hailed by scientists as a breakthrough in achieving food security in the country with the grafted tomato now capable of being grown anywhere in the country.
Traditionally Sodom Apple has been treated as a nuisance fruit and is usually uprooted and discarded guided by dominant belief that the fruit is poisonous.But according to Sergeant Samuel Kananda Manene, Sodom Apple is not poisonous but contains numerous health benefits.
"Sodom Apple is a nuisance to many farmers but they do not know that it can be beneficial to them. Contrary to perceptions, Sodom Apple is not poisonous at all it. It is only bitter and has medicinal value that many farmers are not aware of," says Manene. He says the grafted tomato adopts to different ecological zones, says Manene at Waruhui Farm in Githunguri.
"The wild fruit will also increase the life span of tomato plant and the fruit itself. The life span of tomatoes is short, but the grafted ones stay fresh longer," he said. Common tomatoes are affected by bacteria wilt, bacteria, root knot nematode and moisture stress, but the grafted variety is resistant. The plant is now known as Somato Sodom Apple and tomato. He has also come up with tremato (tree tomato and tomato) pomato (potato and tomatoes) So-Egg (Sodom Apple and egg plant).
Manene who is also the Director of Central Green Fields Nurseries, has been sponsored by the Prison department to study and do research at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology (JKUAT). He says the grafted versions pre-sent a major breakthrough in dealing with soil born diseases. "The plant can grow in extreme environmental conditions and has a long life span meaning it can be grafted even four times and it does not require any chemical spray and fumigation meaning the produce is purely organic," Manene added.
The Sodom Apple is deep rooted hence is does not suffer moisture stress and its production costs are minimal. It has no side effect and traditionally is used as medicinal plant, it reduces chemical spray on the environment that has detrimental effects on the ecosystem, and it's also guaranteed food safety for human consumption since there are no chemical residuals. Sergeant Manene says that if farmers adapt the grafted variety it will save millions of shillings spent to buy chemicals and also save Kenyans from falling sick often.
He says the varieties will also go along way in ensuring food security since they are not vulnerable to vagaries of weather. The fact that no chemicals are needed in planting, he says, is a plus for human and environmental safety. The prison staffer who is also a horticulture student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) says that they are teaching inmates, the new technology to ensure it is being spread across the country. "At the Kiambu GK prison where am in charge of the farms, we train inmates on different technologies that they can use in their lives after prison," Marlene says.
The sergeant says the country can only be food secure if the Government agrees to funds research and support implementation. "The biggest challenge we have is funding from the Government;" he said.