- Farmers in Kirinyaga are set to witness a significant boost in tomato production as the County Government of Kirinyaga rallies behind them in preparation for the forthcoming Sagana Agro-Industrial City, which will include a state-of-the-art tomato processing factory.
- Among the beneficiaries of this support is James Muriithi, the Chairperson of Mwihotori Kerugoya Youth Group.
- Muriithi also praised the high-yielding tomato variety with a one-year production cycle, making it a highly lucrative venture.
Farmers in Kirinyaga are set to witness a significant boost in tomato production as the County Government of Kirinyaga rallies behind them in preparation for the forthcoming Sagana Agro-Industrial City, which will include a state-of-the-art tomato processing factory.
This endeavour aims to revolutionize the tomato industry, enhance local livelihoods, and strengthen the agricultural backbone of the region.
To bolster tomato production, the county government has actively supported 69 community groups in the construction of tomato greenhouses and the propagation of high-yielding, disease-tolerant tomato varieties.
Furthermore, farmers have received valuable capacity-building along the entire tomato value chain.
Kirinyaga County currently yields approximately 60,000 tons of tomatoes, generating an annual income of Sh1.6 billion for farmers.
Under the Wezesha Program, over 2,000 farmers have been provided support, resulting in the planting of an additional 1.1 million tomato seedlings and an expansion of tomato cultivation across an extra 122 acres of farmland.
This surge in cultivation has contributed to an additional 11,000 tons of tomato production.
Governor Anne Waiguru has emphasized that Kirinyaga's local farmers will be the primary beneficiaries of the upcoming agro-industrial city.
They can expect a steady market for their produce, reduced post-harvest losses, and increased returns through value addition.
One significant development is the formation of Tomato Growers Cooperative Societies, which will empower farmers to aggregate their produce and negotiate for better market prices.
These cooperative societies will also facilitate training, ensuring that farmers are an integral part of the supply chain for the Tomato Processing Factory.
The County Government has already taken concrete steps in this direction by constructing an exclusive tomato aggregation centre in Makutano, where buyers will procure tomatoes in bulk.
Among the beneficiaries of this support is James Muriithi, the Chairperson of Mwihotori Kerugoya Youth Group.
His group received assistance for constructing a greenhouse, installing a drip irrigation system, and obtaining high-yield, disease-resistant tomato seedlings.
Members have also received ongoing education in sound agricultural practices, equipping them with the necessary skills to nurture their crops effectively.
Muriithi expressed optimism about a bumper harvest of tomatoes in the next two months.
Additionally, members have replicated the project at an individual level on their farms, having gained knowledge from the group project.
The impending establishment of a processing factory in the county is expected to open up new and profitable markets for their produce.
He highlighted the advantages of greenhouse farming, which offers protection against diseases and pests, reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides and ultimately cutting production costs.
“The advantage of greenhouse farming is that the tomatoes are highly protected from diseases and pests thus reducing the need to use herbicides and pesticides and eventually reducing cost of production,” Muriithi said.
Muriithi also praised the high-yielding tomato variety with a one-year production cycle, making it a highly lucrative venture.
While some groups have received support for tomato cultivation, others, like Michael Njue, have been assisted in seedling propagation.
Njue operates a seedling propagation enterprise in Kimbimbi, Mwea, where he established a greenhouse following training by the County Government.
He transitioned from running a traditional tree nursery to adopting modern seedling propagation technologies, resulting in increased production and reduced labour costs.
Thanks to training in marketing, Njue has been able to reach customers nationwide through online marketing strategies.
Njue's efforts have not only met his basic needs but also allowed him to acquire assets and create employment opportunities for seven individuals, with additional seasonal hires during peak periods.
“Through the seedlings business, I have been able to meet my basic needs and acquire properties as well. I have also created employment opportunities for seven people and I contract more during the high season,” Njue revealed.
He acknowledged the substantial savings realized by local farmers through the production of tomato seedlings within the county, reducing transportation costs previously incurred when sourcing seedlings from Naivasha.
Njue anticipates a surge in demand for seedlings with the establishment of the tomato processing factory, emphasizing the significance of agricultural entrepreneurship and the potential for prosperity in the sector.
Governor Waiguru reiterated her administration's commitment to ensuring that agricultural activities in Kirinyaga County translate into higher income for farmers, thereby enhancing livelihoods and strengthening the county's economy.