News and knowhow for farmers

Long-term weather forecasts guide farmers to tomato millions

Long-term weather forecasting tools are helping tomato farmers rake in its promised millions and avoid the perennial losses experienced by other farmers.

With climate change causing increasingly irregullar rainfall patterns, the only certainty about tomato prices for Kenyan farmers has been their uncertainty. Prices can swing from as low as Sh15 a kilo to over Sh100 a kilo from season to season and even across seasons. 

Patrick Kirimi has been growing tomatoes for over 25 years. Previously, he could predict the crop’s prices with certainty based on traditional weather patterns. 

“Rainfall and temperature schedules have become so erratic. Last year for example we had El-Nino rains predicted to begin in October by the Met department. This was during the ‘short rains’ season and many in farming circles were rightly skeptical of the weatherman and went on to plant their tomatoes. Open-field farmers whose tomatoes were ripening, while the rains were bearing down, ate some heavy losses. 

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What I have come to appreciate is that my previous knowledge gunnerd since the 90s on planting schedules is no longer reliable,” said the farmer, who is currently growing five acres of tomatoes in Giaki, Meru county.

He pulls out his phone and opens a PDF file downloaded from the Kenya Meteorological Department in February of this year. The ‘Seasonal Weather Forecast for March, April, May 2024’ predicted above the long-term average and well-distributed rainfall in Meru. These rains were scheduled to begin in the third to fourth week of March and end in the fourth week of May to the first week of June. 

“I planned my tomato seedling transplanting week to coincide with the beginning of the rains and thus far the Met’s predictions have held true,” he said.

The predicted warmer-than-usual temperatures have also come to pass which has boosted the maturity rate of his tomatoes.

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Downloaded on his phone also is Kalro’s Kenya Agricultural Observatory Platform (KAOP). This gives him an instantaneous two-week rainfall and temperature schedule that is accurate and specific to his Ward. The app which also comes with agriculture market information informs his short and medium-term crop management. This includes; watering, pesticide application, and weeding.

“With these two sources of information as my cropping calendar guide I can navigate farming in a climate-changing world of erratic rainfall patterns and rising temperatures more effectively, he ended.

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