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Project could enhance food security and improve farmers′ incomes
Seminis Helps Kenyan Farmers Invest in Greenhouse Tomato Production

Each year, farmers in East Africa struggle from a shortage of tomatoes. Devastating rains cause the problem, and the fruit shortage causes tomato prices to shoot drastically higher. Seminis is answering East African farmers’ call for help by finding a solution to this devastating issue: growing tomatoes in a greenhouse.

“I strongly believe this is the way forward for enhanced food security and farmer incomes,” says Peter Francombe, Seminis Africa Lead and General Manager in East Africa who has been a major contributor in moving this project forward.

Francombe says the project is a combined effort with the Kenya Horticulture Development Programme (KHDP), which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). The role of Seminis is to teach growing practices and supply hybrid tomato seed to farmers. KHDP sponsors the greenhouse and drip irrigation for farmers’ operations.

Here’s how it works: Kenya farmers who have an available 240 square meters of land are funded with $1,700 to install greenhouses and drip irrigation. The farmers’ contribution to the project is concrete and labor. Then, Seminis provides growers with seeds—a variety called ANNA—fertilizers, chemicals and technical backup. Seminis provides education on growing practices at field days to farmers.

EMEA Vice President Dieter Holtz estimates that farmers in East Africa increase their returns by about 500 percent through this project.

“On 240 square meters, farmers can bring in 10 times more yield than on open-field and open-pollinated (OP) varieties, and the growing window expands to the rainy season, where prices for fresh tomatoes in the market increase three-fold,” he explains. Holtz also says there’s an environmental benefit. “Besides increasing yields and gaining year-round supply, less water is used through drip irrigation and less chemicals due to the controlled environments.”

In addition to the business benefit, participants also have a humanitarian goal in mind. “We hope we can change the tomato market in Kenya and other African countries, drastically increasing the standard of living of farmers and playing an important role in improving the diet of the population,” Holtz says.

Already, with only five greenhouses, Francombe says the project has reached more than 3,000 farmers directly at field days. An additional 10,000 farmers have learned about production practices through newspapers, other media outlets and the sales team. “Now is the hard work to reach them with the seed and funding to set up the greenhouses,” Francombe explains.

Francombe has continued to move the project forward and has started the introduction of the concept into Ethiopia with USAid. With the contacts and network that has already been made, Seminis could also reach out to Tanzania and Uganda in the near future.

Publication date: 11/29/2007


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