A tree tomato farmer from Nyeri County who quit a driving job three years ago to venture into farming has now become his own boss in the crop production which is earning him up to Sh640,000 gross income per month.
James Njeru used to be a truck driver for a Chinese firm which had employed him and took him to Burundi where the company had a project.
During free time, he would visit nearby farms where he got interested in farming on seeing how farmers in the area were doing well in arrowroot, tree tomato and vegetable farming.
“Coming back home in 2016, I decided to give farming a trial on part-time basis. This was a bit challenging because no one was fully committed to take care of the arrowroots and some vegetables I had planted prompting me to quit my job in the second season of the year,” said Njeru.
With no in-depth knowledge he decided to incorporate tree tomato also called tamarillo after learning the art of producing the crop from fellow but more experienced farmers in within the county in addition to attending agricultural events.
At the moment he has one and a half acres piece of plant. An acre is his family inheritance while the remaining half belongs to his aunt who left it for him to utilise.
“I have 800 trees of tamarillos under some portion of land which I have divided into serveral pieces to accommodate other activities such as various plant seedlings production,” said Njeru.
The matured trees are now giving him fruits on a weekly basis where he harvests up to eight kilos of tree tomatoes per plant in a month resulting in 6,400 kilos from the 800 plants.
He sells a kilo to brokers who come to source the fruits from his farm at Sh100 per kilo translating to Sh640,000 gross income a month. “However, sometimes when there is high demand and low supply, the price can go up to Sh180 per kilo.”
Apart from the brokers, Njeru also sells his produce at the City Market in Nairobi.
His main challenge is how to fight fruit flies which affect the crop and can reduce their life span to about six years from ten years.
“If not for the challenges, tamarillos are the easiest crops to grow because they are not labour intensive and once they are mature, a farmer can harvest the fruits continuously for up to ten years of income generation,” said Njeru.
To keep the flies at bay, the farmers ensures he sprays pesticides after every ten days.
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Besides the tree tomatoes, the farmer also raises Hass avocado, macadamia, passion fruit and pomegranate seedlings among others.
“I currently sell between 500-1,000 seedlings a day and this sometimes shoots up to 10,000 during rainy seasons when the demand is high against the supply. I have farmers across the country whom I supply on a daily, weekly or monthly basis,” he said.
He sells tree tomato seedlings at Sh80 each, grafted Hass avocado seedlings at Sh90 and yam tubers at Sh100 each. He has over 2,000 arrowroot tubers to sell.
Njeru can be reached on +254 711 500966