Passion to grow safe foods, led Margaret Ngina to grow chemical free TOMATOES

Passion to grow safe foods, led Margaret Ngina to grow chemical free TOMATOES

When mentioning people producing safe food, Margaret Ngina is one of them. This is a lady whose main intention is to grow and supply consumers with safe, organically grown tomatoes. Fully convinced that use of chemicals and pesticides to fight pests and diseases is hazardous; she adopted organic farming.

Tomatoes produced for local market have been alleged to being sprayed with harmful chemicals. Excessive chemical residues in tomatoes may lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, as well as contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Spraying crops with harmful chemicals not only affect human but also insects and thus why scientists from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) have been at the forefront in advocating safer management of pests in farming.

Tomatoes are vulnerable to a number of pests and as a result, pesticides are commonly sprayed to control them. The fleshy nature of tomato means that chemicals can easily soak into the edible part of the crop, leading to potentially high residual levels of pesticides.

Ngina grows her tomatoes using ‘Bokash’ which is a bio-organic fertilizer while also incorporating compost manure. Her tomato farming journey dates back to 2015 when she joined an organic organization called Kosdeb in her locality which promotes and teaches on use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides which are homely made by using green leaves, which are crushed and fermented.
“My desire for farming is unrivalled. The idea of farming in me was conceived at a very tender age while growing up in Kihara village, Kiambu County, I used to see my parents toil on the farm to educate and feed us and they used to rope us in their ventures during school holidays. This motivated me just to love farming; seeing crops grow from small seedlings to a productive crop was so much fulfilling. Upon completion of school it was easy for me to get into farming and the returns has made me glued to the farm,” Ngina stated.

Commercial tomato farming is a venture that can easily be achieved in this era even in urban areas where land is considerably scarce. The secret is to be smart about it, to remain dedicated, to focus on production and be in the market throughout.

To learn her trade in tomato agri-business, she visited several tomato farmers and one of the thing she learned was the need of buying ready seedlings from propagators. She could raise the seedlings herself but she is not guaranteed of achieving the quality the propagators usually get because they are specialists in this field.

Today, she is carrying out her farming ventures in several greenhouses installed with drip lines. Investing in greenhouses is ideal in order to protect plants from extreme weather conditions and pests. She recounts she has been in the tomato farming business for the last 7 years and for her to be able to produce good and safe tomatoes, she seeks agronomical services. “I have been harvesting 300 Kilos of tomatoes every week which I sell majorly to organic groceries in Nairobi and the rest of the produce goes to the local market with the buyers visiting my farm to purchase the produce, “she said. Unfortunately, at the moment, the prices of tomatoes in the market have plummeted to low levels with a crate retailing at Ksh 1,500 from the usual Ksh, 5000.

Ngina has invested in growing Anna F1 variety. “Anna F1 tomato variety takes 60 to 75 days to reach maturity from transplanting compared to other varieties that I grew before which take up to 90 days. Being a hybrid tomato variety, the Anna F1 is more resistant to common tomato diseases, including the Alternaria stem canker and Fusarium wilt. It also offers fruits that have a deep red color, oval-shaped and firm even when ripe, this is what consumers prefer and they are also high yielding,” she said.

According to Ngina agronomy advice are crucial elements to successful tomato farming which entails; land preparation, transplanting, weeding, crop protection, staking, and post-harvest techniques. She shares that one of the most influential services is on the proper fertilizers use and best practices for crop protection methods. “And giving more manure or fertilizer will automatically give you more produce. This isn’t always the case. A soil test is always a sure guide as to how much to feed your crop for optimal yields,” she advises.

The passion in Ngina’s eyes is evident every time she speaks about the farm and how she has managed to ensure all activities run smoothly. She has roped in her parents who ensures daily farm operations are done while she hustles in marketing the produce. “Farming needs all attention; you need to be involved. Forming farmers groups is one thing that farmers need to consider as this helps to share ideas and explore more market as well as marketing techniques, “she advised.

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