In Summary
  • During the day when it was warm, the hot air inside the greenhouse rose to form mist, which sometimes condensed on the films and dropped on the plants, damaging them and giving rise to diseases.
  • There are countless undocumented accounts from farmers who have burnt their fingers after investing in defective greenhouses.
    The losses could be as a result of buying cheap and low greenhouses.
  • Once crops in a greenhouse are attacked by pests and diseases, controlling the menace becomes a herculean task
  • Greenhouse technology the world over has been hailed for allowing crops to grow without the stress from pests, diseases and extreme weather, leading to high quality fresh produce.

Martin Njoroge had just stepped out of college when he realised no reasonable job was forthcoming.

Together with two other young men, he decided to venture into horticulture at his parents’ plot in Kiambu.

At the time, greenhouse farming was the craze in Kenya, with reports of farmers making astronomical profits.

Njoroge, a commerce graduate, and his mates, applied for a loan from a youth fund to start the business.

“We used close to Sh200,000 to acquire the 8x8m greenhouse, drip irrigation kits and tomato seeds,” Njoroge, who ventured into horticulture in 2016, says.

As soon as the structure was installed, the three young men rolled up their sleeves to work.

“We began by planting tomatoes before rotating them with capsicums. Unfortunately, the polythene paper got torn at the top,” he says.
With the cover destroyed, whiteflies, moths and other pests found their way into the greenhouse and destroyed the crops.

The flies became a menace and the tomato fruits began rotting.

The three friends repaired the damaged roof but the pests remained in the greenhouse and even multiplied.

“We tried all kinds of pesticides and fly traps in vain. The cost of managing the greenhouse and attempting to fight the pests was great so we abandoned the business,” the farmer says.

The three men’s tragic experience with greenhouses is not different from Rodgers Kirwa’s, a social media agribusiness farmer in Nandi County.

The Egerton University graduate says his first foray into greenhouses last year was a failure.

Unlike Njoroge, who made some cash in the first season, Kirwa’s failed from the start.

He had heard of people making good returns from greenhouse farming and took the decision to try his luck. He bought polythene at Sh70,000.

DEFECTIVE GREENHOUSES

Unfortunately, the paper lacked anti-fogging properties.

During the day when it was warm, the hot air inside the greenhouse rose to form mist, which sometimes condensed on the films and dropped on the plants, damaging them and giving rise to diseases.

This is common in structures that do not have anti-fogging properties or have poor ventilation.

“My tomatoes were destroyed. I did not get a single cent from my investment,” Kirwa says.

Lucas Mutua, another young farmer from Kamulu on the outskirts of Nairobi, recalls how his neighbour bought seven greenhouses about two years ago.

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