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Here Is A Man Who Has Discovered A Goldmine In Growing Tamarillo.

Mwangi shows off one plant that has more than 30 fruits in the quarter acre piece he has grown tree tomatoes.

Every young person aspires to see themselves break even and turn into millionaires one day. However, the millionaire status is one that often proves too elusive to many. Otherwise, it is possible for anyone to invest, work smart and turn their ventures into a money mill.

50 year old Julius Mwangi Kimani from Kamwario Village, Gacharage Sub-Location, Kinyona Location of Murang’a County, can only be best described as a man who knows how to take maximum advantage of available opportunities to make millions.

He has been farming for about 30 years, having first ventured started into the trade in 1986 as a young man. He left the former Rift Valley Province, where he was born and brought up, to come and settle in his late father’s one and a half acre piece of land near Kangari Town in Murang’a County. With time, he had planted about 2000 tea bushes and also kept two dairy cows.

“I sold my business in the Rift Valley after it proved to be unviable. I came here and settled in my father’s land. In my pocket I had sh. 380,000, money that I used to build myself a house and start my journey in farming. As time went by, I was able to buy some of the land that belonged to my late father’s siblings to increase my acreage to about 3.5 Acres,” explains Mwangi.

Today, he earns more than a million shillings from tea, his dairy cows and Tamarillo or Cyphomandra betacea (tree tomatoes or matunda ya damu in Kiswahili).

Mwangi’s Goldmine.
Having dealt with tea farming for years and observed its returns, Mwangi decided to try some other crop so as to boost his income. He discovered the goldmine he had always hoped to find. Motivated by the success of other farmers, he went head-first into tree tomato farming, armed with very little information.

He cleared about a quarter acre piece of land and bought 500 seedlings of grafted tree tomatoes. The seedlings had been grafted with Solanum mauritianum (the bug weed), a small tree or shrub that is poisonous to humans, especially the unripe berries, to make it withstand dry weather.

“I spent sh. 50,000 and to plant the 500 seedlings and in less than one year, I had already started earning from my trees. I have tried tea and dairy farming.  But I have decided to concentrate more on tree tomatoes because they are cheaper to grow, mature faster than tea and their market is good. On a very bad day, a kilo of tree tomatoes goes for sh. 80,” he says.

The tree tomatoes, which he supplies to Nairobi and other markets, are currently his main money maker. The market is so great that the buyers even come to collect the fruits from his farm, thereby saving him from the stress of having to transport them to the market. In fact, Mwangi reckons that he is not able to satisfy the demand at the moment and he usually supplements his supply with produce from other farmers in the region.

He notes that this year alone, he has earned about sh. 700,000 from the tree tomatoes as compared to sh. 420,000 he earned from his 5,200 tea bushes.

“Compared to tea and dairy farming, tree tomatoes have earned me a lot of money within a very short period of time. If I were to choose among the three, I will go for the tree tomatoes.”

Mwangi says that the plant is not as demanding in terms of labour as compared to tea or dairy farming. Aphids and white flies can be a big problem though if not well dealt with.

“If you just weed the land and ensure that you control the pesticides, one plant of this grafted tree tomatoes will give you an average of 7kg per month that is about sh. 600 from each tree monthly,” he adds.
Mwangi showing the bug weed that is usually grafted with tree tomato seedlings to make it hardy.

He adds that compared to the normal tree tomatoes, those grafted with the bug weed are drought resistant and can survive for some time without water since they are deep-rooted. Their fruits are also heavier.

“I would like to encourage farmers and the youth who can access land anywhere to venture into tree tomato farming and especially the grafted ones as this is one of the best ways to earn money. The other species needs a lot of water to enable them bear large fruits and survive especially during dry seasons. Grafting tree tomato with an indigenous tree known as Muthakwa in Kikuyu (bug weed) makes it more resistant to the dry conditions. Muthakwa-grafted tree tomatoes bear fruits all-year round with a single tree producing between 50kg and 85kg in six months. The fruits are picked after every two weeks and can survive for 10 years,” he explains.

He now plans to increase the tree tomato acreage to grow at least 1,000 more seedlings this year.

His Parting Shot?
“There is great wealth in farming. If I am asked to choose today between farming and any other form of business, I will still go for farming as its fruits are so sweet. For the youth out there who are still tarmacking looking for jobs, just try farming and you will never regret. Don't scratch your head saying there are no jobs. You can achieve your goals in life with exactly what you have now. Success only goes to those who have taken an initiative.”

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