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    Onyancha and Sang’anyi's one acre tomato farm in Nyamira North Sub-county. The two farmers are expecting to start harvesting their tomatoes from mid-March this year.

    Two Kisii farmers are anticipating to earn more than Sh750, 000 a month from their one acre farm after planting tomatoes in December 26th last year to January 2nd this year, using drip irrigation system targeting the off-season mid-March market when the produce prices are high in the country.

    Over the past three decades, a large trade in 'off-season' horticultural crops that encompasses dozens of tomatoes has developed in Kenya according to a study by Horticultural Cooperative Union Limited Kenya (HCU) whose mandate is to enable smallholder farmers to secure better marketing for their produce.

    RELATED STORY: Traders sell more from tomato influx

    The HCU study indicates that on average, the total production cost of tomatoes by a small scale farmer on an acre farm is about Sh250, 000. This include the cost of irrigation materials (preferably, drip kits) among other farm implements. Medium producers spend Sh500, 000 while large scale farmers use Sh800, 000 and more on production per acre.

    “This is a new concept on the increase across different levels of farmers to meet increasing demand with more profit,” said Timothy Munywoki, an agronomist from Amiran Kenya.

    “Tomato is a relatively warm season crop, with day and night temperature requirement in the range of 26-30 degree Celsius and 14-19 degree Celsius respectively. It requires low-to-medium rainfall and some sunshine at fruit-ripening stage.”

    Generally most areas in the country experience dry season from mid-June to October and from late-December to mid-March.

    RELATED STORY: Agro Company unveils all-season tomato variety

    Julius Onyancha and Reuben Sang’anyi are examples of farmers who are taking advantage of the dry season experienced in the country currently to produce tomatoes that will be in demand in the off-season which will lead to an increase in price hence profits.

    In 2016, the two farmers conducted a test on tomato farming during dry season on a quarter acre spending Sh65, 000 on irrigation, compost manure, labour and other expenses and earned Sh150, 000..

    “This encouraged us to increase the size of our farm to one acre from. We harvested 55 crates and sold about 50 at Sh4000 each as the demand of tomatoes was high,” said Onyancha.

    RELATED STORY: Tomato farmer targets harsh weather to make profits

    This year, the tomatoes will be harvested from 16th March.  The average tomato prices is always high; bigger sizes that are normally sold at five shillings rise to Sh10 each while the best quality is retailing at four fruits for Sh50 according to National Farmers Informational Service (NAFIS).

    Additionally, the dry season is good for tomato farming because there are less prone to attack from diseases and harvesting starts when there is high demand of tomatoes in the market making the prices favourable for the farmer.

    “During wet seasons when there is much rainfall, tomatoes are prone to diseases like leaf curl, fruit cracks and powdery mildew caused by much cold and high humidity,” said Onyancha, who has been a tomato farmer for the past 15 years.

    RELATED STORY: Tomato turns Western students into entrepreneurs

    Separately, the two farmers own greenhouses. Sang’anyi owns one measuring 10mx60m with about 1400 tomatoes currently while Onyancha has four although only two measuring 10mx40m and 8mx25m; a total of 1800 tomatoes at the moment.

    “We plant Rambo variety of tomatoes which are resistance to bacterial wilt, takes about 75 days to mature and is harvested for four weeks upon maturity,” said Onyancha.

    Onyancha and Sang’anyi are expecting to make Sh750, 000 collectively while on individual basis they will make Sh408, 000 and Sh376, 000 respectively totaling to Sh783, 000 net profit.













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     Kenyan farmers who join cooperative societies such as Ortum farmers’ cooperative society, to market their produce are more likely to double or triple their income due to improved bargaining power.

    David Roron, an onion farmer in West Pokot County for instance, has increased his earnings from Sh120, 000 to Sh350, 000 per acre per season after joining the Ortum farmers’ cooperative society in 2014. Initially, bulb onions were not grown for commercial purposes in the region and prospective farmers depended on relief food as maize production was too low to sustain the families.


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    However, the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project moved in to empower farmers in the area in 2015 enabling Roron and 1339 other farmers to jointly form a cooperative to market their produce. Since then, farmers have been educated on the best farming practices allowing them to increase production from four tonnes to eight tonnes of onions per acre. Joint marketing efforts have also helped the farmers improve their bargaining power earning Sh50 per kilo of onions up from Sh20.

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    Farmers offloading milk at Kabiyet Dairies Company Ltd , a cooperative society owned by farmers in Nandi North

    In Nandi, Cyrus Kitur, a dairy farmer has increased his milk production from eight liters in 2016 to 32 liters per day in 2017 from his two cows after joining Kabiyet dairies cooperative society. Through the society he was to learn of silage making technologies which assured him of enough feed for his cows every season. His income thus rose from an average of Sh240 per day to Sh960 after selling the milk through the cooperative.

    In this, cooperative societies play an important role in reducing poverty levels, improving food security and generating employment opportunities.

    According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cooperatives provide over 100m jobs worldwide with more than one billion members.

    Cooperatives are associations of people who unite voluntarily to meet their common economic needs via a joint enterprise that enables them improve bargaining power.

    Agricultural cooperatives play an important role in supporting small agricultural producers and marginalized groups such as young people and women. They empower their members economically and socially and create sustainable rural employment through business models that are resilient to economic and environmental shocks.

    In Kenya, cooperative societies have employed more than 300,000 people in the various sectors dominantly in the agricultural industry. The societies turnover in 2017 was Sh436bn representing 45 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

    “Cooperatives offer small agricultural producers opportunities and a wide range of services, including improved access to markets, natural resources, information, communications, technologies, credit, training and warehouses,” said Thomas Nyamongo, an agricultural extension Officer at the ministry of agriculture.





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    More than sixty five farmers in Nyamira and Kisii Counties in Nyanza region have benefited from free lime application provided by the lime factory, Homa Lime Company, to reduce acidity in their farms.  Lime is a valuable soil amendment that raises soil Ph and helps plants flourish by improving the quality of soil.

    According to results from a soil testing process conducted by Homalime officers in mid-January in the two counties, soils in the region have a Ph level of 3.9 to 4.5 which is too acidic for growth of maize, the major crop cultivated by farmers in the region.

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    Research by YaraMila Fertilizer Company indicates that maize thrives well in soils with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.2. Maize has a poor tolerance of soils with less than 5.2 pH levels as this hampers root development and slows the development of the plant.

    “Our sample analysis of soils in these counties proved that farmers have applied too much DAP fertilizers’ making the soils acidic,” said Josiah Mbaka, the sales coordinator of Homalime in Kisii and Nyamira.

    “We are therefore conducting free soil testing in selected farms where farmers have complained of poor yields so as to determine the quantity of available nutrients and apply the recommended lime quantity,”

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    Farmers applying lime to a selected farm in Nyamira County. PHOTO/MILTON ONGERI

    More than three quarter of the farmers in the region have recorded decreasing yields over the years owing to the high acidity levels of soils attributed to leaching, soil erosion, application of too much fertilizers and mono-cropping.

    “Farmers in these locations usually harvest a maximum of only 15 bags per acre, season in season out and this is one of major reasons why we partnered with soil experts to correct this problem,” said Milton Ongeri, the coordinator of farmers in the region.

    In addition to free lime application, the farmers also benefited from free maize seeds courtesy of Seedco which were used for demonstration in selected farms.  Each farmer received 1.5 kilograms of the seed to be used for experimental purposes in the section where lime was applied.

    Sample statistics from Trans Zoia County reveal that maize farmers have doubled their yields from an average of 15 bags to 38 bags per acre after applying lime in their farms in the 2017 planting season.  In this, the farmers have been motivated to continue cultivating the crop which they had nearly lost hope in and have contemplated venturing into other types of farming.

    Homalime can be reached on +254 706 032 109









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