Small Fields, Big Harvests

After struggling to make ends meet, Tabitha Muthoni has realized her full potential as a successful farm owner and business person with support from the Mavuno Zaidi Program in Kenya.

Tabitha Muthoni on her tomato farm in Kenya
Tabitha Muthoni on her farm. A mother of three, she struggled to get by on the profits from her amaranth crop before becoming a successful tomato farmer with support from TechnoServe.

Tabitha Muthoni, a farmer in Utange, Mombasa County, Kenya, used to struggle to provide for her family. Her income – between $50 and $60 in sales from her amaranth and tomato crops – was simply not enough to get by, especially when her husband fell sick. These days, however, Tabitha is a successful tomato farmer. She has harvested 700 crates and counting, raking in a profit of approximately $5,000 per season from her new crop.

With steady business selling to grocery vendors in the area, Tabitha says she owes her success in tomato farming to Mavuno Zaidi, a project implemented by TechnoServe in partnership with Syngenta. True to its name, which means “more crops” in Swahili, this innovative collaboration aims to increase tomato and potato yields, and improve the market system for farmers by providing quality crop inputs, improving access to finance, and enhancing the capacity of market service centers.

The amazing thing about TechnoServe is that once they come on board to support you, they hold you up all the way. They have walked with me on this journey, and as a widow and a mother of three, I require no extra financial support from anyone because of this project.”

In 2015, when one of the program’s Community Extension Service Providers first encouraged her to get involved, Tabitha knew little about growing tomatoes. “Before the program I had tried out tomato farming, but had little knowledge on the crop and its diseases. I used to visit service centers with leaves I had picked to explain the problems I was facing,” she said.

After learning best farming practices and accessing improved seeds through Mavuno Zaidi, Tabitha’s tomato plants were healthier and more productive. “With the project’s support, I have learned so much and my crop was the best at the Mombasa agricultural show [a yearly trade fair],” she boasted. “People hardly believe that tomatoes can do well in the in the coastal region!”

Kilele tomatoes from Tabitha's farm
Kilele tomatoes from Tabitha’s farm. She harvested more than 700 crates last season, yielding $5,000 in revenue.

Tabitha has adopted a drip irrigation method to water her tomatoes, which helps her to have a less hectic work day and save water while still yielding high-quality produce. As a widowed mother of three, her tomato harvest is making a big difference in her household income. Although she currently lives in a rented apartment close to her farm, she has begun purchasing building materials for her new home, and plans to start construction soon.

Tabitha now employs 11 workers to help run her 2-acre farm at peak times, paying their wages through tomato farming revenue. In fact, many community members are improving their incomes through the employment opportunities on local tomato farms.

Tabitha believes that many more farmers will continue to benefit from the program, and as a driven business person and farmer, she is ready to grow further, producing more Kilele tomatoes and increasing sales, both for herself and for her community. She has made her farm a meeting place where farmers can exchange information, and she strives to inspire the rest of her community by sharing her new knowledge with them.

To date, Mavuno Zaidi has helped to improve the livelihoods of approximately 2,400 farmers in 21 counties throughout the Rift Valley, Eastern, Central and Coastal provinces of Kenya, with farmers seeing an average 18 percent growth in net income after the first season. Read more about the project’s impact in a blog post by TechnoServe CEO William Warshauer.