If you have been dreaming of eating the fruits of your own labour then the idea of farming tree tomatoes (aka tamarillo or matunda ya damu) is a literal way to do just that. The oval-shaped fruit is gradually taking over the market and supermarkets are scouting for farmers to help them meet growing demand.
One good thing about this crop is that once you plant a few seedlings you do not have to care of them everyday which means you can set-up a farm somewhere near your current place of work and monitor it remotely as a side hustle.
The most interesting bit of it is that you can get started with your meagre savings and make as much as Ksh133,000 per month out of a small chunk of land. But before you rush to invest here are some steps you need to follow.
Step 1: Find Land
Obviously, in order to plant anything you need some land. But you don’t necessarily have to buy one. Nowadays, you can easily lease land from farmers across the nation. The ideal piece of land is one that is fertile and well drained. Preferably located in a place with adequate supply of water and relatively calm winds.
This is to say you can plant your tree tomatoes in places like Central Kenya, Western, parts of Nyanza, Taita Taveta and even parts of Rift Valley. The fruits can even grow in semi-arid areas provided there is adequate water to irrigate them (in addition to mulching). Set aside Ksh15,000 for leasing land if you do not have any available.
Step 2: Prepare The Land
Apart from tilling the land and preparing the holes you will need to buy a water tank. This will come in handy during dry seasons because tree tomatoes require adequate watering at least once a week. A good water tank with 1000 litre capacity will cost you about Ksh15,000.
Step 3: Find Good Seedlings
Not all tree tomato seedlings are good. Some take too long to grow and their fruits are bitter and unsightly. So at this point you need to look for high quality seedlings that are grafted. A good breed is the red otaria family that only takes 8 months to mature. The reason the red otaria type is popular is because 97% of it is edible and it has no seeds inside.
A seedling goes for Ksh50 from HCDA and KARI recommended nurseries in the country. An acre of land will require 1,200 seedlings amounting to Ksh60,000. Remember, you can always start small e.g. on 1/8th acre which requires 300 seedlings and thus a smaller budget of Ksh15,000.
Step 4: Plant and Wait
Plant the seedlings, keep caring for the farm and wait for about 8 months. Normally, that is the time it takes to see the first fruits. And one more thing…remember to set aside a small budget for insecticides because aphids can sometimes be a bother.
But Is There Market?
Market for high quality fruits is always available. In fact by the time your first crop matures you will start to receive calls from potential buyers. But other than that, you can recruit a few young unemployed people to be retailing the fruits in shopping centers and bus stops near your place.
Alternatively, you can transport them all the way down to Githurai 45 market in Kiambu County or Wakulima Market in Nairobi County…or even Kongowea Market in Mombasa. And if you have connections with supermarkets, you can package your product nicely and deliver them to the shelves.
Some farmers who are already doing this business are always willing to train others at a small fee. For purposes of this research we linked up with one Mr. Wambugu from Githiru Village of Nyeri County. He normally charges Ksh200 per farmer for a day of training in his farm. He also sells grafted seedlings to those willing to start.
How Much To Invest
For a small farm like the 1/8 acre one you will require about Ksh20,000 to get started. However, because we always believe in thinking big, we shall give you estimates for an acre of land for purposes of planning.
-Leasing Land: Ksh15,000
-Farm Labour: Ksh20,000
-Manure and DAP:Ksh20,000
-Water Tank etc: Ksh20,000
-Insecticides etc: Ksh5,000
1 Acre Total Budget: Ksh130,000
How much To Expect
Of course, the bigger the land, the better the returns. On average a single tree produces 20Kilograms of fruit per year (harvested once a week). So using the 1 acre farm as an example and assuming only 1000 out of 1200 trees mature then we can set our realistic expectations on a minimum of Ksh1,600,000 revenue.
1000 trees x 20 Kgs x 80 (Price per Kilo) = Ksh1,600,000 per year. (Or Ksh 133,000 per month)
Remember, this is a very minimalistic approach and you can even make more money if you are really serious about it. For instance the price per kilo currently varies at between Ksh100 and Ksh150. Also, the likelihood of losing 200 trees is very low.
- Finding good land
- Many farmers might want to do this and hence flood the market and prices may go down (But for now prices are very stable)
- The fruits have to be watered at least once per week during the dry season
How many investment opportunities in this world allow you to inject Ksh130,000 to reap Ksh1,600,000 per year? Well, very few. That is why the idea of planting matunda ya damu is a timely one. You can start small today and build onto to bigger things. If you do it so well, you can ditch your current occupation and focus on more potential revenue streams such as selling seedlings and value addition e.g. producing tree tomato juice. What a lucrative business idea!