Tomato Farming in Kenya: How To Do It Without Burning Your Fingers

Tomato farming is obviously one of the most profitable horticultural activities in Kenya. This is obviously so because no Kenyan meal is considered complete without the taste of tomato. Consequently, the market is huge and ready and this is the fact that has encouraged many people to invest in large scale tomato farming.

tomato farming in kenya
Tomato farming in Naivasha, Kenya

Everyone knows someone who has made millions with this crop but they also know many others who have lost terribly while at it. What makes the difference between the rich tomato farmers and those who lose their money in it is what I am about to tell you here.

1. Don’t farm tomatoes anywhere

Tomatoes are very easy to grow; throw a seed anywhere and a few days later you will find a nice green seedling there. This can easily deceive you into thinking that you can grow tomatoes anywhere. However, for you to achieve a good harvest and make money, you have to establish your farm under the optimum conditions.

Tomatoes thrive in deep well drained soils under warm or hot climate. Rainfall should be low or moderate, although the crop requires a lot of water to produce well. This is the reason why most tomato farms in Kenya are located along rivers in Narok, Kajiado, Makueni, Southern Embu, Laikipia and lower Kirinyaga. These places have the ideal high temperatures while the rivers provide the much needed water for irrigation.

Of course people at the coast would be making a kill with this crop but, unfortunately, their culture and attitude towards agribusiness stands between them and the red sweet money they would get from tomato farming.

2. Go for varieties that are high producing and disease resistant

Scientific research and development has continued to bring us better tomato varieties in terms of production and disease resistance. Why would you want to stick to those varieties that give you only a handful after your long wait and hard work? Some of the best open field tomato varieties that we now have in Kenya are Terminator, Big rock and Zara. Of course Anna F1 still rules the greenhouse space. Well, you are not limited to these varieties but before you buy any seeds, ensure check the production potential and the variety’s ability to resist common tomato pests and diseases.

3. Do not use ancient nursery methods to raise your tomato seedlings

I don’t know why I didn’t even start with this point. The greatest determinant of whether your tomato farming project is going to be a success or a failure is the method you use to raise your seedlings. You see that traditional way of preparing a nursery bed on the ground; fine soil, 1 metre width, grass mulch on top, etc? I’m sorry it’s what our agriculture teachers taught us back then but the truth is that is the source of most farmers’ loses. Let me tell you why:

Seedlings raised this way are exposed to soil borne diseases at that tender age. You transplant these seedlings onto your farm and they come already infected and weak. They will never give you optimum yields even if they grew to maturity.

When transplanting these seedlings, the roots are severely interfered with; some are even broken in the process. Therefore you end up with weak seedlings that are badly affected by transplanting shock. They take more than one week to recover and never really get to their best. Poor start is equal to poor results.

So go for those seedlings that are professionally raised using modern technology. These seedlings are planted in either coco peat or peat moss. These are media that are disease-free, very light and less compact to allow for faster root development. The seedlings are raised in trays that make it easy to get the seedlings out without interfering with the roots. Such seedlings do not even suffer transplanting shock since their roots are intact. They give you the kick start you need for a good yield.

tomato seedlings for sale
Tomato seedlings raised using modern techniques

4. Ensure you do proper staking and pruning of your tomato plants

I must commend our Kenyan tomato farmers on this because I have seen most of them put efforts to stake their plants. However, it is unfortunate that most of them do it a bit too late. Staking should be done early while the seedling is still young. This helps the plant to receive maximum sunlight throughout its growth period. Also, if you do staking too late, you will find yourself trying to straighten some of the bent plants and end up breaking them.

Pruning is what most farmers have completely ignored, yet, it is as important as staking. We prune tomato plants to get rid of diseased branches, improve air circulation and lighting and most importantly to help the plant feed what is of importance to us – the fruits. If the tomato plant has too many side shoots and old leaves are left clinging on the stem, a lot of nutrients will be used to feed these parts yet they are not important to us.

5. Take timely action

Finally, the most important aspect of successful tomato farming is taking required actions early enough. Unfortunately, Kenyans will wait until their crop is heavily infested with pests before they start running from one agrovet to the other in search for the most powerful pesticide. They end up using a lot of money and saving nothing since the pest would have already done its damage.

Worse still are the farmers who will wait for the plants to start weathering before they do the next irrigation. This takes the plants several steps backwards and significantly affects production.

So do what you need to do early enough: apply that fertilizer at the right time, strike that pest before it goes through its full cycle and irrigate the plants immediately the top soil feels crumbly if you squeeze it in your hand.

We are always happy to hear from and help you. If you would like help in tomato farming, like getting high quality seedlings, advice on the best pest control methods and more, do not hesitate to call us on 0724698357.

5 comments :

Omony Robert said...

Very intereting here in Uganda most of the small holder farmers do not consider all these factors and end up failing. seeds selection, anceint farming methodology still a challenge and i feel this kind of information be shared across East Africa. Thanks

Unknown said...

very grateful for this information its very helpful.

Unknown said...

May you tell me more about Tylka F1

Unknown said...

Thank you for The great info

Unknown said...

Thank you for the great info