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Charles Ngaruiya: How I Transformed Ksh3,500 Into A Thriving Tree Tomato Farming Enterprise

In the serene landscapes of Elburgon, located between Molo and Njoro in Nakuru County, a small-scale farmer named Charles Ngaruiya is making big waves in the agricultural sector.

With a mere Ksh 3,500 in his pocket, Ngaruiya embarked on a journey that would transform his life and the agricultural landscape around him.

“With the 3,500 shillings I had, I prepared my planting area, bought seedlings, hired some laborers, and planted 70 seedlings in March 2021. I left a space of five feet between each plant, allowing me to intercrop with nitrogen-fixing crops like beans. This helps the tree tomatoes grow well and healthy,” said Ngaruiya, explaining that he dug each hole three feet deep.

Ngaruiya explained that he removed the topsoil from each hole and mixed it with farmyard manure, leaving the mixture to ferment for a month. This concoction generates heat, effectively killing insects hiding in the soil. After this period, the seedlings are ready for planting, provided the farmer has enough water.

Ngaruiya uses water from a nearby stream or canal for his farm.

After three to four months, he sprays herbicides and pesticides before trimming the tip of the tree tomato plants when they reach four feet to prevent them from bending due to their height. Properly managed branches result in abundant fruiting.

“If it’s taller than its width, the yield is poor compared to the ones grown to an average height with multiple branches and increased fruiting,” he explained, adding that after six months, tree tomatoes need additional spraying, especially when flowering begins.

After a year, farmers reap the rewards of their first season if there was adequate rainfall and the plants were well taken care of.

The key, according to Ngaruiya, lies in the proper planting techniques, sufficient watering, using animal manure, and applying nitrogen fertilizer (CAN) to boost yields.

He plans to expand his land and plant over 400 seedlings, emphasizing the substantial benefits of fruit farming compared to other crops like maize.

“A lot of work goes into planting maize, especially spending a significant amount on renting land, buying seeds, and fertilizers whose prices have increased beyond farmers’ expectations. Brokers are also a significant challenge faced by maize farmers in this area,” he said.

Ngaruiya sells his produce in Nakuru town for 60 shillings per kilogram. Despite being a long-lasting fruit, consumers use it for more than two years before pruning or rotating the crops.

He harvests his fruits within a week depending on the weather. During cold or rainy seasons, he harvests after two weeks.

Water scarcity and attacks by pests are some of the challenges tree tomato farmers face. He uses traps or poison baits to kill pests.

In his region, farmers are gradually moving away from maize cultivation and venturing into large-scale fruit farming, including avocados, oranges, and other varieties.

In the future, he believes his region will be recognized for fruit farming since many are focusing on it.