Farming On The Slopes Of Kilimanjaro

Taita taveta is best known for hosting the world reknown Tsavo East and West National park.A traveler visiting the area for the first time is awed by the hills and mountains that seem to be a touching distance away.We are here to meet Bakari Mbise Mwololo a large scale  tomato and onion farmer.Bakari has been farming since 1991, initially he was farming in  a one and half acres piece of land in oloitoktok  but later moved to Taita taveta in 2009 where he has become a respected farmer. Currently he farms in 25hectares where he alternates between Tomatoes and onions. To help him run the farm he has employed a farm manager who helps in the day to day running of the farms.

Numbers Don’t Lie
Anyone who undertakes Tomato and onion Farming can attest to the fact that its capital and labour intensive. In 2016 Bakari managed to make a profit of 300,000 from his onion  plant and 700,000 from his tomato plant

Climatic Conditons Climatic conditions
Tomato grows well in Warm Conditions .High humidity and temperature reduces quantity and quality, while low temperature contribute to delay in colour formation and ripening.

Understanding The Market   
Taking care of your crop from planting to harvesting is given the most time  and attention by farmers. While that is important, farmers should also take time to understand and identify their markets.Bakari has managed to sell his produce in Nairobi,Mombasa,Arusha and Dareesalaam. Years of experience have given him insights and contacts that he uses to get the best market for his produce.

Market Tip“Planting Tomatoes from January-April  is a good bet as most farmers depend on rain”

Turning Challenges To Opportunities
The market keeps fluctuating and a farmer may incur losses depending on market forces. Having learnt the market forces, Bakari now maximize the seasons when most farmer don’t have water and seeds are expensive.   “For Tomatoes we plant in the January season as most farmers do not have water and those who have may  not able to afford seeds at the time”

Advice To Farmers
Farming need patience, run your farm like a business, ensure that you always have stock and running capital. Planning ahead and having a clear work plan ensures that Bakari  has all the resources needed for a successful planting season. We noticed that Bakari farm is under attack from spider mites and blight.The same condition was witnessed in adjacent farms. Its advisable to practice crop rotation and plant crops that are not part of the Tomato family. In Bakari case he can rotate the tomatoes with the onions. For small scale farmers applying the affected tree with flour will serve the same purpose.

Bakari's Tomato Farm
Bakari’s Tomato Farm

Author: Charles Kimani – TOF Radio assistant

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