In Summary
  • The practice is that the brokers buy from farmers, then sell to the market women.
  • Odoyo owns a 8 by 3m wooden greenhouse, a project he started in February with Sh180,000 from his savings.
  • According to Dennis Ongech, farmers should plant tomatoes in beds and use drip irrigation system so that in case one bed is attacked, the disease cannot spread to other beds.
  • Bacterial wilt, caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas solanacearum is one of the biggest enemies of the crop.

Francis Odoyo sifts through rows of shoulder-high tomato plants, picking ripened fruits dangling off the trusses.

Sweat shines on his face, and he repeatedly wipes it with a piece of cloth before resuming the task.

It is about 8am and the 26-year-old must harvest several crates of tomatoes by 10 o’clock, otherwise he will let down his new clients, mainly the mama mbogas (women selling vegetables).

Having had a nasty experience in the hands of brokers stationed at the local markets in Rongo, Migori County, where he farms, Odoyo decided to change strategy.

According to him, he would take his produce to the market but could not sell directly to the traders dealing with consumers. The practice is that the brokers buy from farmers, then sell to the market women.

“They would buy from me and other farmers after colluding amongst themselves to lower prices. Sometimes I ended up selling a crate for as little as Sh1,800 and they would then sell at triple the price.

I did it twice and gave up,” says Odoyo, noting enquiries revealed that is the standard practice in markets across the country, especially for the highly-valued produce like tomatoes.

He recounts that the brokers have perfected the practice because they know too well that tomatoes are perishable.

BOYCOTT BUYING FROM FARMERS

“They boycott buying from farmers at the market and won’t allow you to sell directly to traders. I scouted for mama mbogas and asked them to come and buy at Sh50 a kilo from the farm directly. This has paid off,” says the acquisition officer at Chase Bank, Narok, who farms on family land and started harvesting weekly two months ago.

“Tomatoes are profitable. Each plant offers at least 10kg a season, which for me with my 1,000 plants translates to 10,000kg in total, so even if I sell a kilo at Sh50, I’ll still be making some profit,” he adds.

Odoyo owns a 8 by 3m wooden greenhouse, a project he started in February with Sh180,000 from his savings.

The capital catered for the greenhouse structure, drip irrigation kits, water tank with 1,000 litres capacity, electric water pump, 1,500 tomato seeds and agronomic services for one planting season.

“I started growing tomatoes after realising that those consumed in Rongo town and environs are sourced from as far as Narok. I approached a Kisumu-based greenhouse dealer who sold me the greenhouse and fixed it,” explains Odoyo, a 2013 alumnus of Maasai Mara University where he studied Communication and Public Relations.

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