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    Nyeri tomato tree farmer earns big after opting for fruit over maize farming

    Tamarillo Keziah Kiorio, Nyeri. By Laban Robert.JPG

    Keziah Kiorio check­ing on tam­ar­illo fruits at her home at Tetu, Nyeri County. She does not re­gret leav­ing maize grow­ing for tam­ar­il­los, which are on con­stant de­mand. Photo by Laban Robert

    In beat­ing the high pro­duc­tion costs of maize and its low re­turns, Keziah Kiorio turned into to­mato tree farm­ing, a crop that re­quires less la­bour and a fair mar­ket.

    The to­ma­toes, which she has grown like flowers around the house and in the orch­ard, are earn­ing her more money, which she uses to buy maize for her fam­ily.

    The farmer, who also runs a nurs­ery bed for other fruits, to­gether with her hus­band, Jesse Kiorio, graf­ted the to­mato with a bush tree that is not sus­cept­ible to dis­eases.

    The tree to­mato is com­monly known as tam­ar­illo and one kilo of the fruit sells at between Sh100 and Sh140. The cost per kilo var­ies from one cus­tomer to the other.

    “My hus­band has cus­tom­ers in Nairobi. They make or­ders, which he de­liv­ers on Mondays as he goes to work.  With a little ir­rig­a­tion, the har­vest is through the year,” the Nyeri County farmer said.

    One tam­ar­illo can give up to 30 fruit at a time. She needs six to seven fruits to make one kilo.

    Be­sides those to­ma­toes around their two houses, the crops have in­vaded the tea and ve­get­able orch­ard.

    The about a quarter on an acre piece, where she used to grow maize for her fam­ily, is under pepino mel­ons and the tower­ing tam­ar­il­los.

    She says they do not need to have a sep­ar­ate space since each can grow and give fruits just above the main crop.

     “One tree can give about 20 kilo­grammes per year. Selling each kilo at Sh100 trans­lates to Sh2,000 With one tree I can buy a 90kg maize bag when the price is low, more so after har­vests. I do not need to set aside more land for the maize when I can eas­ily buy it from the earn­ings of fruits,” Keziah says.

    From her quarter an acre piece of land for maize, she hardly har­ves­ted a half of the 90kg bag per sea­son, which runs for eight months. Maize farm­ers in Kenya can spend over Sh2,00 to pro­duce one 90kg bag.

    She has about 300 trees and more seed­lings are avail­able for sale. A ma­ture tam­ar­illo tree can be as high seven feet, and it needs no sup­port.

    READ ALSO: Former med­ical de­liv­ery man finds mil­lions in tree to­ma­toes

    READ ALSO: De­mand spikes as bit­ter melon linked to can­cer cure

    READ ALSO: Mak­ing more than Sh60,000 per month from pepino melon

    The ones grow­ing around the kit­chen are the tallest among his crop as a res­ult of the kit­chen water that is poured from time to time. The fruits are also big­ger and more per tree than those around the tea plant­a­tion.

    She dis­likes maize be­cause of the re­sources re­quired to pro­duce one sack, which must be taken good care of to avoid post-har­vest losses. Post har­vest losses arise from weevils, rats and other pest at­tacks.  If the maize has more than 12.5 per cent mois­ture con­tent, it can also be at­tacked by aflatox­ins - fungi that poison food - ren­der­ing it in­ed­ible by an­im­als and hu­mans.

    The graf­ted type is tol­er­ant to low mois­ture con­tent in ad­di­tion to high yields as well as pro­longed pro­duc­tion period of up to 10 years.

    Even with de­pressed rain and lim­ited ir­rig­a­tion, the fruits have done well, with most of them hav­ing more than 20 ma­ture fruits and many oth­ers at dif­fer­ent de­vel­op­ment stages.

    “We graft hy­brid tam­ar­illo with bit­ter leaf to give rise to a drought tol­er­ant vari­ety. The seed­lings are also nem­at­ode res­ist­ant, mak­ing them bet­ter than hy­brid ones sold by agro-in­put firms,” she says.

    To­gether with her hus­band, they sell the seed­lings at Sh200 raised in a green­house.

    For high pro­ductiv­ity, the Tetu Vil­lage farmer says one needs to dig a hole of three feet by one foot square be­fore filling it with com­post ma­nure. The ma­nure pro­longs water re­ten­tion abil­ity by the soil. This re­duces water wastage after ir­rig­a­tion or rains.

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