Nothing could beat the fulfillment that comes with earning a livelihood from doing what one truly loves and for one young man Dennis, tree tomato farming and keeping chicken is what makes his heart beat.

This kind of farming, unlike most young people in Kenya would imagine, has become more of a delight and less of a chore for him.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health from Masinde Muliro University, Dennis Kanyugo was buoyant about finally putting his skills to practice. He got placement as an intern at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital (PGH), as he sought his footing in his dream career.

Kanyugo interned here for a year, earning Sh.30,000 a month.

Today however, his interest in public health is not as much as it is in farming. At 25 years, Kanyugo has a newfound interest: he grows Red Oratia, the best variety of the tree tomato in Kenya so far, and rears chicken in the family farm in Mathari, just outside Nyeri town.

The start

So how did his interest in tree tomato farming grow? During a visit to Embu with a friend, he met a farmer who grew the fruits. He was impressed.

“He had 300 trees of grafted red oratia on his small farm, from which he was making almost super-normal profits while also training other farmers on the various techniques of grafting. I was fascinated and inspired,” Kanyugo recalls.

After days of evaluation, he concluded that farming tree tomatoes would be a worthy go, one worth walking away from his career eventually.

Though his parents were taken aback by his drastic move, they allowed him to use two acres of their three-acre parcel of land in Nyeri County.

“With the Sh.100,000 I had saved, I was ready to kick-start this project – most people disregard the little money they earn from their first jobs, yet little as it is, spent prudently, it is enough.”

At first, he juggled the internship with his farming endeavors with some ease. Soon, however, it became difficult to offer the attention each deserved, and so he quit to concentrate on farming. Like with all startups, the ride sometimes gets bumpy.

The learning curve

For instance, when he was starting off, he lost Sh.75,000 after he was tricked into buying the wrong seedlings.

After that costly mistake, Kanyugo was wiser. “I visited the farmer that inspired me to plant this fruit and he taught me the basics of tree tomato farming. I learned many things that I had overlooked right from raising my own strong seedlings, proper preparation of the planting holes, farm maintenance and most importantly crop protection.”

He explains: “I learned the importance of starting off with healthy seedlings as that determines the growth vigour of the plant and how long it will take to mature.”

He planted 2,000 trees which by the time we were meeting him had matured and were due for harvesting.

“The trees produce between 20 and 25 kgs of fruits annually. A kilo of tree tomato fruits sells at between Sh.60 to Sh.80 depending on the demand in the market.”

Chicken farming

He also keeps poultry – at any given time, he has 1,000 birds.

“Broilers take about six weeks to mature. I have split my birds into three groups, such that when I introduce new chicks, another batch is three-weeks old and the third one ready for sale. I transport 500 birds for sale at the City Market in Nairobi after every three weeks.

This stargered production ensures a regular supply of income.”

The young farmer has three farmhands who work both in his tree tomato farm and in the chicken section. He spends between Sh.40,000 and Sh.70,000 every month on labour.

For potential poultry farmers, he advises: “The secret to successful poultry farming in Kenya is getting the right breed of chicken, having the right feed, establishing a proper feeding schedule and proper housing with adequate ventilation. Broilers are tougher than layers and sleep after feeding. I prefer them because of their fewer demands.”

With decent success in poultry and a massive fruit harvest in the offing, one may be tempted to imagine that Kanyugo is now content. Except that these accomplishments have only whetted his appetite for more success in agribusiness.

“In two years, I plan to put up a fruit juice and jam processing plant on the farm. Value addition of the fruits will boost my income while creating more jobs,” he says.

Finally, I hope Dennis Kanyugo`s success story was an inspiration to you.


Did you notice that Dennis had to go back to his mentor for information on his new venture? Just like I have always said, success in farming starts with information. Gather as much information as you can before engaging in a new farming project.

Visit farmers who have done it, engage agribusiness professionals and decide on your best methods of marketing beforehand. If you can afford to hire skilled people to help you in managing your investments in farming, that would be a great step in the right direction.

Credits: Timothy Angwenyi