For years, George Wang’ombe has remained a renowned tree tomato farmer who has tapped the market within and outside Nyeri County as he mints millions from picking the fruit.
From introducing grafted fruits to groups of farmers in Kangaita Village in Tetu Constituency, Mr Wang’ombe has ventured out and set up a tree nursery 10 minutes away from Nyeri Town.
The farm specialises in all fruits. In a county rated the highest in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, the fruit nursery is intended to encourage residents to grow and include fruit consumption in their diets.
The preference of diabetes in the county is estimated at 6.4 per cent of the population, which is triple the national average, while that of hypertension is estimated at eight per cent of the population.
Health officials in the county have stated that fruits intake is significantly low among residents.
For Wang’ombe this is an opportunity to make money as well as promote health. “They are very easy crops to grow as they have an early maturity rate and can be grown in the backyard of a house and in a matter of months one is making an income,” he observed.
While a normal tree tomato tree takes two years to bear fruits, the grafted variety is disease resistant and takes nine months to mature.
He deals in over 12 assorted fruits with tree tomato seedlings being the main business in the over Sh800,000 business.
Besides tree tomatoes, he sells permanganate, Hass avocado, peaches, kiwi fruit, grapes, passion (grafted and non-grafted), oranges (Pixes and Washington naval), broodier arrowroots, mangoes and strawberry (Chandria variety).
“I am yet to realise the full potential of this fruit,” noted Elizabeth, his wife, who helps run the farm.
They have grown tree tomatoes for the last nine years which was spurred by the poor returns from coffee farming.
His first investment was Sh20, 000. With years of perseverance and hard work today it earns him a turnover of over Sh1 million annually.
The fruit seedlings cost between Sh100 and Sh250 each.
“There is high demand of these fruits but production does not satisfy the market,” noted Mr Wambugu.
He added that nutritional values of the fruits played a role in motivating him to set up the garden that sits on half an acre on the Nyeri-Nairobi highway.
They sell the seedlings to as far as Uganda and Rwanda.
On a good day they sell seedlings worth between Sh20,000 to Sh30,000.
Besides the seedlings, Mr Wambugu has over two acres of land under fruits that he sells at Sh120 a kilo.