Monday, May 20, 2013

Tomato production manual boosts nurse’s farming enterprise

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya.

39 year old Angela Nduku Vincent is a proud mother of two ,a nurse at the Mutomo Mission hospital and above all; a farmer. When we visited her one sunny afternoon, she was busy tending to the tomato crop on her kitchen garden. From a distance, you could see the green, juicy vegetables that were full of life; a sight to behold given that this part of region is very dry. She received us warmly and she was more than willing to show us around her kitchen garden.

Angela says that she got interested in farming when three years ago a Rotary club introduced a program to train the hospital staff on dry land farming and kitchen gardening.

“During this period, a demonstration farm was established so that members could learn and train community members on the initiative,” Says Angela who says that after the project timeframe was over she approached the hospital management and took over the practice.

After being given the mandate to manage the farm by herself, she worked tirelessly and hopes of her efforts bearing fruits remained alive. In recognition to her efforts, the hospital management allocated her greenhouse just footsteps away from her garden where also she has grown vegetables. She uses drip irrigation method with water that comes from a relatively raised tank just outside her greenhouse.

At the moment Angela practices Agro forestry and has grown vegetables like onions, tomatoes, kales, and spinach and also has nurseries for mangoes, trees for timber and trees for providing shade’’ says Angela

Information services

Angela cannot hide her gratitude to Mutomo Maarifa Centre. “The Maarifa Centre has hugely contributed to the success of my garden” she says. She was able to access the books in the library where she got crucial tips for her farming activities. For instance she says she could not bring herself to grow tomatoes since she feared the many diseases associated with them. That was until she came across the book “Cultivation of tomato –production, processing and marketing” that proved her otherwise. She gave it a try and now she boasts of almost market-ready tomatoes in her kitchen garden.

Of much interest to her was a chapter in crop rotation with special emphasis on intercropping. Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops  in proximity. She has intercropped tomatoes with kales and spinach. According  to the book, intercropping reduces the incidence of diseases and pests ,improves soil fertility and enhances maximum use of land. The advantage of the practice is In case one type of crop fails, another type of crop is always left.

From left;Angela browses through the library resource; the specific chapter that she referred to;Angela’s tomato plantation.

Being also a beneficiary of the free ICT training at the Maarifa Centre, she would also use the internet to find relevant information on how to manage and maintain her garden.

Angela’s customers include the hospital staff as well as the Mutomo community. She provides vegetables to the hospital kitchen.Furthermore, the area residents come to her kitchen garden and purchase seedlings from her.Angela continues to tell us that it is only a matter of time before she starts supplying the hospital kiosk with vegetables for sale.During good times, she makes up to USD.125  per a month.

Challenges faced

Angela says that the main challenge she faced was getting fresh water for her vegetables as salty impended their growth. However, the hospital management came to her aid through providing fresh water tap for her farm. Another challenge she faces is getting customers for her products.

She feels that it would be great if the Maarifa Centre was able to provide information on a variety of crops. She insists that there are many crops that can do fairly well in these parts of the country but the people are not aware.

“Information accessed has been an eye opener and given me the knowledge to kick start new projects” Angela says. She hopes other people would make an effort of getting to the Maarifa Centre and benefit from the services they are offering.

“The information gained there can be used practically to raise the people’s standard of living,” she concludes.

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