When Joseph Njeru Nyaga dreamt of venturing into tomato farming – and earning a decent living – he scrolled the internet as he searched for the best seeds. He stumbled on Monica F1 seeds which promised to have good yields.
Nyaga then contacted authentic seeds distributors and bought the seeds. Monica F1 did not disappoint. For choosing the right seeds, Nyaga was able to pocket Sh400,000 profit from the first three weeks of harvesting. That means he had broken even with just a single harvest!
Monica is the latest sensation in the tomato seed market. Marketed by Simlaw Seeds – a subsidiary of Kenya Seed Company – the seed from Sakata, a Japanese company with over 100 years history of plant breeding, is increasing fortunes of Kenyan tomato farmers who have been grappling with poor harvests.
“Monica F1 seed is amazing. It’s consistent in size, high yielding and is resistant to blight,” says 41-year-old former accountant- turned-farmer.
He is right. Monica F1 has an excellent resistance package, which includes: Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium Wilt, Alternaria alternata- Early blight, Stemphyllium – Grey leaf spot and Pseudomonas – Bacterial speck.
These resistances mean that the farmer uses a lot less chemical than with other varieties.
From his one and a half acre plot within Embu town, Nyaga has already scooped back his investments even before the actual harvest starts.
The success of Monica F1 is attributed to its capacity to yield better and quickly. It is also easy to manage.
“Monica F1 is a hybrid seed that is very easy to manage due to its resistance to blight and some other diseases”, says Simlaw Seeds Chief Research Officer, Robert Musyoki.
Hybrid seeds are developed in the laboratories and tested in the fields for close to decade before they are released to the market.
They are more superior to non-hybrid seeds as they are engineered to withstand all problems affecting a particular crop.
In Kenya, blight is the most devastating fungal that attacks the foliage and fruits of both tomato and potatoes. Many first time tomato farmers are pushed out of the market by both early and late blight for lack of awareness.
But Nyaga was lucky because Monica F1 seed is resistant. Actually, he never expected to start harvesting so soon. While tomatoes average maturity age is about 90 days, Nyaga was able to harvest within 65 days from transplanting.
“I believe in getting the best in the market even if it’s expensive and Monica F1 has not let me down,” he says.
Nyaga advices farmer to get good seeds since farming is a business and the more you invest the better the returns.
“Monica F1 is going to make a significant contribution to tomato growing in Kenya”, says Angus Douglas-Hamilton, the regional representative for Sakata in East Africa, “ because it is a widely adapted hybrid tomato, which has an exceptional resistance package as well as extremely high yields. Monica F1 is a high value seed, which more than pays for itself through very high yields. The resistance package will reduce farmers inputs, but they will still have to watch out for Tuta absoluta, which is causing damage throughout the country. We recommend farmers grow this variety alongside their current one, as we are very confident that they will quickly see the benefits for themselves”
Nyaga’s venture into farming started seven years ago when his wife lost her job. As she pondered what to do she decided to keep a dairy cow to supplement her husband’s income. The cows multiplied and within a few years they had a herd. Seven years later they have over 40 dairy cows and have since started processing yoghurt.
Although their two acre farm within Embu town has since 1997 been used to plant fodder for his dairy cows Nyaga decided to diversify with tomatoes which might give him better returns than the dairy. From Embu, we travelled to Loitokitok at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, where we met Zippora Omoi, another farmer who has planted Monica F1 seedlings. The 37-year-old mother of two who left Nakuru for green pastures says she has never grown such superior tomatoes.
“I had planted only 400 seedlings and I got good yields. The seedlings were actually given to me for demonstration as I was not ready to do tomatoes having prepared my field for watermelons.
The yield impressed her so much that she has become one of the new converts into farming Monica F1 tomatoes. “At the time,” she recalls, “I had problems with water for irrigation but they were still the best tomatoes in this area.”
Zipporah has now prepared two acres to plant Monica F1 this season.
MONICA FACT BOX
- Monica F1 is fast growing right from the nursery
- It germinates quickly. Nyaga uses trays to germinate his seeds and Monicah germinates 100 per cent.
- The flowering is excellent. Flowering determines yield
- Monica F1 has an excellent resistance package.
- Its management is low as it is a determinant crop. Monicah is not labour intensive and saves the farmer time.
- It matures early
- Market friendly. The fruit size is market friendly as its oval shaped. It has lengthy shelf life.
- Harvesting period is long. This gives the farmer better returns than with other
- It allows you to challenge it. If you tend to it well it give you good yields.
- Monica F1 is the preferred choice for cooking