In 2009, Catherine Mumbi quit maize and beans farming due to low yields and poor prices to focus on horticulture growing tomatoes, a venture that is earning her six times more.
“I would harvest 10 bags of beans and 15 bags of maize from one and half acre piece of land. In this, I would sell the maize at Sh1500 for a 90kg bag and Sh1700- 1800 for the beans for a 90kg bag.
Her retired husband Edward Njagi who worked with a tours and travel company was able to raise enough money to buy the piece of land at Sh700,000 in Kirinyaga County, Mururi village. The 55 years mother of four started small. Mumbi began by planting maize and beans, which she would sell at Kutus and Kagio Market on different days. The income was however not enough to meet her needs. She thus decided to switch to other crops planting butter nuts, French beans, capsicum, and tomatoes across different seasons.
When Farmbiz Africa visited her farm, it was a harvesting day with seven casuals harvesting the produce.
“Its market day “, a lady among the harvesters said. On this very season tomato was her main crop. It had yielded well. She had spent between Sh20,000 to Sh30,000 from land preparation up to harvesting time.
The returns however were high when compared to maize. She earns between Sh250,000 to Sh300,000 per season.
Mumbi harvests about 10 crates from two harvests in a week and said she has ready market available for her produce.
On this particular day, two buyers from Nairobi and Juja had come to buy the produce from her farm. They said they were to take the tomatoes to Kawangware Market in Nairobi. The traders bought a crate of tomatoes at between Sh2800 to Sh3000 per crate depending on the size of the fruit.
Sometimes she opts to sell the tomatoes at Embu Market when the prices are better than the farm gate buyers. At the market, prices range between Sh3000 to Sh3500 per crate also depending on size. In 2017 she bought herself a car worth 1.5m from tomato proceeds.
Catherine Mumbi displays the car she bought in 2017 from her tomato farming.
The biggest challenge she faces is pests such as whitefly which attack her crops every season. “It has been a challenge to find the proper insecticide and fungicides for my crops, “she said.
Farmbiz Africa recommends organic management of the pests without use of pesticides. In this, apply yeast mixed in lukewarm water and spray the solution on tomato leaves once every two weeks. Apply 4g of yeast per liter of water. Yeast extract as a foliar application not only increases early and total yields but also helps in getting a good fruit quality.
Alternatively, make ash from dry pawpaw leaves then mix with water (one kilo per 20 liters of water) and spray the suspension onto your tomato crop.
Another problem she encountered was inadequate rains which forced her to spend Sh10,000 per season to irrigate the crops using tap water.
“I have started water harvesting and planning to dig a borehole to cut production costs,” she said.
Mrs. Njagi looks forward to expanding her production in future to enable her plant more crops and earn more income. Her next plant however is to buy a pick up to make it easy to buy and transport farm her farm products.
According to the 2019 Economic Survey Report, Kenya produced 1.96m metric tonnes of tomatoes up from 324,000 metric tonnes in 2018.