KENYA – Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has implored farmers to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for tomato production in order to ensure quality and safe produce for the consumers and also safeguard the environment.
This was during the implementation of Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) programme, which is the government’s project jointly supported by the World Bank.
KCSAP is being implemented over a five-year period under the framework of the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and National Climate Change Response Strategy NCCRS, 2010.
Tomato is the second most important exotic vegetable that is widely consumed in Kenya, and its production constitutes one of the fastest growing markets edging towards a vital cash crop.
Cases of excessive use of pesticides have always been reported with the agro-chemicals used by farmers having been banned by the government but they still find their way into the farmers’ fields.
Dr Eliud Kireger, KALRO’s Director General informed that excess use of pesticides without observing the post-harvest intervals (PHI), leads to the tomatoes accumulating high residues of the chemicals thereby slowly affecting the consumers of the tomatoes and tomato products.
“The high incidents of chronic diseases being experienced in the country are partly contributed by the excessive use of agro-chemicals thus it is important for farmers to adopt and practice the safe tomato production practices,” the DG said.
KALRO has continued to develop technologies, innovations and management practices for crops and livestock in a bid to ensure food and nutrition security and increased incomes for farmers countrywide.
However, Dr Kireger said these efforts can only bear fruits through concerted efforts by all stakeholders not as competitors but in a complimentary manner since all are serving the same farmer.
Farmers ignorant of tomato varieties
He pointed out that several improved tomato cultivars that are high yielding, and resistant to pests amongst other attributes have been developed to enhance tomato production.
Even so, most smallholder farmers do not use them due to lack of information on the right varieties suitable for specific production systems and best agronomic packages in specific agro ecological zones especially in the arid and semi-arid areas.
He added that poor postharvest handling and limited value addition, also cause high price fluctuations and postharvest losses, in addition to poorly organized urban and rural markets and poor infrastructure, leading to a decline in production and productivity.
“The average yield of tomato in Kenya stands at 15 tons per acre against a potential of 30-35 tons and this yield gap is as a result of various factors including biotic and abiotic stresses which include pests and diseases causing yield losses of up to 100 percent and this will require application of agrochemicals as the main control strategy,” he said.
The major tomato producing counties in Kenya are Kajiado, Kirinyaga, Taita-Taveta, Laikipia, Bungoma, and Trans-Nzoia with the production volume of tomato in the country currently standing at 574,458 metric tons and earning the country about ksh20 billion (US 175,131,348) annually from an area of 28,263 hectares, according to Kenya News Agency.