Barry Silah @obel_barry
In the heart of Lamu county, a tomato farming pilot project sitting on an eighth acre parcel of land is slowly taking shape. The project, which is collaboration between Pate Education Youth Initiative (Peyi) and Lamam —a local social enterprise —aims to address food security.
Most islands that make up the Lamu archipelago buy food from the coast mainland via Mukowe jetty, mainly from Mpeketoni farmers. Pate island is no exception, which means tomatoes have a ready market.
The project is owned by a group of traditional birth attendants through Lamam (Lamu Against Maternal Mortality) and gets voluntary labour from Peyi members keen to dirty their hands in learning agribiz.
The founder of Lamam initiative, Abubakar Baasba says 23 members have engaged in the project, which they hope will see the region become self-sufficient in tomatoes. “There is a market need; we saw the niche and decided to exploit it. More importantly, Peyi are volunteers but are keen to learn modern agriculture, so they help run the farm,” he said.
The pilot project, projected to produce between seven to eight tonnes of the Eden type tomatoes at harvest, was commissioned in March this year. This was after soil tests were conducted in Nairobi and a seedbed prepared in early April.
Earlier this month, the seedlings were transferred into different plots. “Based on our survey, we found the land was virgin and the soils fertile. If all goes well, we anticipate to sell the produce to the local community and earn the project some money. It all depends on good maintenance through weed removal, spraying and watering.
The group is using insecticides and fungicides to rid the crop of any attacks from fungus and roaming insects,” says Diana Atieno, an agricultural expert working alongside Peyi.
Khadija Abubakar, the Project Co-ordinator, is optimistic the farm will change the landscape of the area and the local mindset on agriculture. “We hope this project will provoke interest in agri-business here and we look forward to spreading our wings further and trying out other crops,” he said.
A member, Muhsin Mohammed, who is also treasurer to Peyi group, is challenging the team to utilise available resources and technical support to grow cash crops.