Greenhouse puts lunch on high school students’ table 

Some of the students at Sokoro Girls Secondary School in Elburgon, Nakuru County

Some of the students at Sokoro Girls Secondary School in Elburgon, Nakuru County tend to tomatoes grown inside a greenhouse at the school in this photo taken on November 2, 2022.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Following perennial droughts in many parts of the country, leading to a sharp rise in food prices, students of Sokoro Girls Day Secondary School in Elburgon, Nakuru County, have put up a greenhouse.
When the Seeds of Gold team visited the school, the students were tending to and harvesting tomatoes in the greenhouse that was built in 2016. 

Inside the 10m by 20m greenhouses, the dry leaves were conspicuous as the girls harvested tomatoes while others weeded.
“We planted more than 500 seeds in a bed before transplanting the seedlings a month and a half later,” Ms Lilian Losute, the agriculture teacher, says. 

“Setting up the greenhouse, preparing the land, purchasing pipes, sheets and other requirements cost more than Sh300,000.”.
Esther Wanjiru, a Form Four student, says they use animal manure and certified seedlings from reliable agrovets. 
The students and their teachers harvest tomatoes four months from the planting day. 
Drip is the most preferred irrigation method as it is cheap. There is little loss of water. 

The amount of harvest, Ms Losute says, depends on the size of a greenhouse and the number of branches produced by every stem. 
In the first year, the students harvested more than 5,000 kilogrammes of tomatoes, which they sold at Sh80 a kilo to local traders. 

However, production increased with subsequent growing periods. 
“Because the school now gets enough tomatoes, we sell the surplus and use the cash to boost our lunch programme, especially when parents take long to settle fees,” Wanjiru said, adding that some of the money is used to buy pesticides, herbicides and other inputs. 

The cutworm invades the crop. This is mainly controlled by watering the plants. The water is from the school well. 
“Tomatoes are also affected by blight fungal, a disease that attacks leaves. We control the disease with fungicides,” said Wanjiru, adding that the American bollworm which invades fruits is controlled by pesticides.
Blossom End Rot is another disease which ravages the tomato crop. It is caused by too much nitrogen, lack of calcium or irregular watering.

Weekly harvest

Wanjiru says she and her colleagues harvest the tomatoes every week.
Says Ms Losute: “The Ann F1 variety does well in our area. The tomato is suitable for the table and processing.” 
The well comes in handy during dry seasons. The tomatoes are usually watered early in the morning and late in the evening.

The warmth from the greenhouse helps the plants to grow and mature fast. 
“Greenhouses are easily managed in the dry season if there is a reliable source of water. When the production of tomatoes is up, the cost of living naturally goes down. Tomato is an important crop to the school and the community,” Mary Nyathioma, another Form Four candidate, said.

Nyathioma said she has learnt a lot on greenhouses and would set up one once she clears school.
Molo Sub-County Agricultural Officer, Emma Mwangi, advises farmers to embrace greenhouses. 
She says crop rotation needs to be practised in order to control diseases and pests. 

“Greenhouses require a high level of hygiene and maintenance. Visiting our offices and field days help farmers to acquire skills for the production of a variety of crops. They will also know how to control crop pests and disease,” said Ms Mwangi.

She added that many families with greenhouses do not maintain them properly.

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