Waiguru opens first exclusive tomato market in Makutano
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has opened the first exclusive tomato market in the county, bringing long-awaited relief to farmers and traders. Makutano Tomato Market becomes the largest tomato aggregation centre for county farmers who sell their products to retail and export traders. Kirinyaga is the largest producer of tomatoes in the country with an estimated annual production capacity of 63,000 tons, fetching farmers around Ksh. 1.5 billion annually. Neighbouring counties as well as Nairobi and Mombasa provide the largest market for the commodity. During the official opening on Wednesday, Waiguru said that the market will accommodate about 500 tomato traders who have been selling by the roadside but have since been displaced by the ongoing expansion of the Kenol-Sagana-Marua dual carriage. “The market will provide a conducive environment for our traders and shield them from harsh weather conditions such as sunshine and rain. Their products will also be protected from getting spoilt by mud during the rainy seasons, hence reducing post-harvest losses,” said the governor. She noted that the market has modern social amenities such as toilets, car parks, proper stormwater drainage as well an adequate lighting system that will lead to an extension of transaction hours. Waiguru said organic waste from the market would be collected by pig farmers to feed their animals. “We have also placed waste bins marked Organic and Non-organic with the aim of separating waste from the market. The bins that are marked Organic will be used for dumping the organic waste which will then be collected by our pig farmers to feed their animals,” she added. “Through Wezesha, we have supported 69 farmers’ groups to upscale tomato production, through the construction of greenhouses for seedling propagation and growing of high-yielding tomatoes,” added the governor. This has enabled farmers to plant around 1.1 million seedlings on an extra 122 acres of land which will in turn lead to the production of an extra 11,000 tons of tomatoes by December this year. To address post-harvest losses and add value to the tomatoes, Waiguru said that the county government is in the process of constructing a tomato factory in Kangai, Mwea constituency, noting that value addition will earn farmers more money and create employment opportunities for Kirinyaga people. The factory will be making tomato products like tomato sauce, tomato juice, paste, pulp, concentrate and diced tomatoes. It is also expected the number of tomato farmers will double as a result of the ready market for the produce. She said that the county government will continue supporting farmers to upscale tomato farming as well as provision of a favourable marketing environment. “We are in the process of constructing four additional aggregation centres for our farmers in Kibirigwi, Riakiania, Kimbimbi and Togonye, the latter two being for tomato farmers. We are committed to implementing high-impact projects that will in the long run touch every household in the county”, said the second-time governor who is also the Chairperson of the Council of Governors. Besides the tomato aggregation centres, Waiguru’s administration has over the last five years constructed 15 other markets namely: Makutano, Wang’uru, Kagio Cereals market, Kagio Clothes market, Kutus, Kagumo, Kianyaga, Kiamutugu, Kerugoya, Sagana, Kibingoti, Karumandi, Githure, Gathoge and Kerugoya Hospital Fruits Market Sheds. Wezesha Kirinyaga program has so far supported about 500 farmers groups to undertake various agricultural value chain projects with an additional 350 groups recruited this year for support in poultry keeping, tomato, avocado, pigs and fish farming among others.