In-house tomato growing set to attract huge public interest

Mr Ndjovu's Greenhouse
A professional accountant has turned his residence, on Dar es Salaam outskirts, into a profitable tomato greenhouse farm, earning about 1m/- a month.

The farm, which is at its initial stages, is expected to produce tomatoes worth of 20m/- a week at its final stages through plastic greenhouse farming.

The accountant, Mr Benno Ndjovu, said he had invested 7m/- for the single greenhouse in construction of the house using local materials and drip water irrigation system.

“I came to realise that greenhouse farming pays more than my profession,” Mr Ndjovu said while hoping to decrease Dar es Salaam’s dependence of upcountry in tomato supply.

The accountant-cum-commercial farmer said making profit out of the land needs one to farm scientifically by timely applying the required inputs.

“The knowledge I gathered around about farming, drove me to think that the majority of vegetable growers are using a lot of energy with minimum output,” the farmer said.

The greenhouse that occupies an area of 12 metres wide by a length of 42 metres produces an average of 10 crates of tomatoes a week in six months, which currently are fetching 25,000/- per crate. He localised the greenhouse, which its main structure used local materials, had cost 7m/-.

One plant has a potential of producing up to 15 kg at first harvest, going up to 60 kg by the time it has completed its full cycle after six months.

It has high yields and longer shelf-life of 21 days compared with 14 for those grown in the open. The plant vines are supported inside the greenhouse with sticks and special strings, imported from Kenya, growing up to 50 metres in height.

“The advantages of greenhouse farming are that production goes on throughout the year and does not depend on rain. The risk of diseases is also lower compared to open farming,” Mr Ndjovu said.

According to research, tomatoes have been grown in greenhouses for nearly 100 years. For this reason, there are many techniques for growing tomatoes in a greenhouse and much has been written on greenhouse tomatoes.

Greenhouses, where plants are grown, heats up because of incoming visible solar radiation for which the glass or plastic is transparent. During rain seasons tomato production is low due to destruction of flowering process or clogging causing plants to rot and in turn push up the prices.

The costs of farming at greenhouses are low compared to the open farming. For instance, he said, the costs at most, including paying his farm manager and two assistants and inputs are not exceeding 30 per cent. In comparison with poultry keeping, he said greenhouse farming pays more as it needs little capital and is not time consuming compared to the former.

“What it needs most is plenty of water. Without water any commercial farming is unprofitable,” he said, adding “in a short period I am telling you, I will be able to load a five-tonne Fuso per week”. 

In Dar es Salaam, the greenhouse is the first one in the city. However, another would-be-greenhouse-farmer in Kinyerezi has borrowed a leaf from Mr Ndjovu.

The second farm has started and expects to start producing in the next 60 days. A system developed by the Kenya Horticulture Development Programme (KHDP), a grower requires about 240 square metres of land and a greenhouse kit to get started.

The cheapest kit, according to KHDP, comprising a 500-litre water tank, irrigation drip lines, plastic sheet, seeds and chemicals has been put at 2,250 US dollars (about 3.6m/-) for one to start farming and a plot of land can grow 1,000 plants.

“It takes a shorter period (two months) for greenhouse-produced tomatoes to mature, while it takes a minimum of three months with outdoor farming,” Mr Ndjovu said. Mr Ndjovu is an agricultural entrepreneur. He plans to establish five hectares of greenhouse farms in Dar es Salaam. He said he will be able to supply 2,000 crates of fresh tomatoes a week, which is about 10 light trucks a week.

But his dreams are not coming forth as he wishes because obtaining agriculture loans from commercial banks prohibits him to realise his goals. The accountant-cum-farmer also has 200 hectares farm of mangos in Kibaha as well and paddy in Kisarawe without mentioning his five class-room size poultry building.
Source: The Daily News,http://www.dailynews.co.tz, reported by Abduel Elinaza
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