For many farming on a large scale is quite demanding and stressful because one cannot determine the outcome, there are several risks involved when it comes to farming but one needs to prepare their mind and be passionate about what they do in order to be successful.
This is the case for 52, year-old Martin Noah Mundwe, who owns a farm in Chongwe District. Mrmundwe has been a vegetable farmer for the past 5 years but for most of these years he has specialized in tomato farming and he attests that nothing gives him more joy than having an increased production for his tomato yield.
Even with all the years of tomato farming experience his success, however, has not been without losses as he faces numerous challenges from fluctuating prices, weather and low demand, fortunately, that has not stopped him from learning new approaches of tomato production. According to him, his business is what has helped him overcome severe financial challenges.
“I grow different varieties on my farm but more importantly I grow this Tengerured tomato variety for the supermarkets and regular market,” he said.
MrMundweadded that for one to succeed in the industry one needs to ensure that there is improved nursery management because a good vegetable crop according to Mr. Martin always starts with a good nursery, this can be a semi-protected tunnel covered with sheets or bamboo trees.
According to him these low cost and simple structures protect the seedlings from intense radiation, livestock, strong rainfall which may result in soil erosion, and other environmental impacts.
“I do not spend much on materials as you can see some of these materials are just sourced from the bush, and I mostly use manure as fertilizer, the only thing that costs me some money are the pesticide products,” he happily lamented.
He added that field management which includes staking is also another vital area of consideration for any farmer, he stated that he spends most of his time scouting for problems to identify which areas or crops need much of his attention.
MrMundwe who sells his tomatoes at a wholesale price said increased transport costs to markets was another factor pushing up the price of the produce, he also stated that there were a larger supply and less demand as many people are venturing into tomato production.
For Mr. Martin tomato farming is about volumes the more volumes harvested the better for him because 1ha of tomatoes increases his household income by as much as 150% percent enabling him to afford to send his children to school, according to him on a good day a box of tomatoes soars as high as K290 or K300.
Tomatoes according to MrMundwe requires the following to grow light, moisture, and fertile soils, he stated that for one to be successful in tomato production they need to consider these three factors and study the climate changes, Zambia, in particular, has three farming seasons with August to October being the easiest season because tomatoes grow and mature faster a reason for the drop in tomato prices.
“In times of rains like this, tomatoes are susceptible to diseases so i always take advantage by planting more because the wholesale price goes as high as K470 per crate because it’s expensive for me to purchase the inputs to control these diseases.” MrMundwe lamented.
He, therefore, urged farmers to consider processing the commodity to produce other sub-products of the product to avoid losses and hopes the government encourages investment into a processing plant because the tomato crop is a serious cash crop that will enhance the country’s economic growth.
“Tomatoes have a lot of uses, for instance, we could invest in setting up a tomato plant that can process tomatoes into juices or even tomato paste instead of wasting it, because currently, Zambia imports tomato paste from South-Africa, so if we farmers take advantage of this we can actually change the face of the agriculture sector,” he said.
Although tomato production has grown tremendously within the last few years, he advises that tomato farmers be wary of the risk of not having any market availability, price, and financial uncertainty