Growing money in a greenhouse

Sunday July 22 2018


By Devotha John

Sia Tarimo is very careful about the food she eats. She does so to keep healthy and avoid diseases such as hypertension and diabetes that can be brought about by unhealthy eating.

Her quest to control weight gain and staying healthy made her an avid follower of one Dr Boaz Mkumbo, who uses social media to advocate for healthy living.

Sia was therefore a key participant in Dr Mkumbo’s healthy eating group whose aim was to call on members to take healthy food and clean vegetables that are devoid of chemicals.

It is through this group that the enterprising lady was inspired to grow her own vegetables. She was not comfortable eating vegetables from vendors because she was not sure they were grown in a clean environment.

The fact that most vegetables sold in Dar es Salaam are watered using contaminated water made her even more eager to start her own vegetable garden. Apart from being sure of eating vegetables free from harmful chemicals, this would also enable her earn an income for she was sure of a reliable market.

Today the 38-year-old woman owns a three hectares farm in Msata, nine kilometres from Bagamoyo. Trinisia Farm is not your ordinary farm. Sia grows her vegetables in green houses and does not use synthetic fertilisers. She uses cow dung and chicken droppings instead. She keeps local chicken at her farm for the purpose.

The farm is well fenced and as you enter the black gate, you are greeted by the sight of different vegetable seedlings.

The Kinondoni B resident chose to go organic because many people believe this kind of farming is safe for both mankind and the environment.

Becoming her own boss

“When some people go to the market to purchase food stuff, they tend to ask the mechanism used to grow the food. Many shun foods grown with inorganic fertilisers,” she says.

This gave the mother of one the confidence to venture into organic farming so she could give people what they want. Uncontaminated vegetables grown organically which are not dangerous to their health. On her farm, Sia grows a number of vegetables and fruits including cucumbers, pepper, straw berries, Chinese and local spinach.

Sia who was born in Kilimanjaro Region completed her ordinary level education at Iteba Secondary School in Sinza, Dar-es Salaam in 1996. She trained in nursing and worked at Huruma Hospital in Rombo Kilimanjaro region for two years.

“Since I was young my dream was to be my own boss. In 2015, I opted for farming and opened a hardware that would push my income,” she says. It is from this shop that she raised money to invest in farming. Her husband helped her with some money too.

Although she still operates the hardware shop, Sia spends most of her time on the farm to ensure all goes well.

She says after doing thorough research, she found it feasible to put more energy in agriculture. That time she already owned a three hectare farm in Bagamoyo District where she used to grow maize.

“Maize farming was not that profitable so I decided to concentrate on growing vegetables. I thought I would still get high yields without using artificial fertilisers. Besides, growing vegetables would be easier than managing a maize farm,” she says.

The farmer says greenhouse farming is really profitable and less capital intensive. It cost her Sh52 million for two greenhouses which stand on one hectare. She says with green house farming one hardly faces the pests and disease challenges. In case of diseases, she uses salt and vinegar which are not only cheap but safe and healthy.

Sia employs people to assist her on her farm. She works hand in hand with her employees to avoid disappointment.

“I always work closely with my workers as it is easier than just giving them instructions which they may not follow accordingly,” she says.

Because of this, she is forced to spend a lot of time on the farm because farming needs much attention, something that denies her time to deal with other commitments.

Sia’s vegetables enjoy huge markets in Bagamoyo, Tegeta and in many supermarkets. To keep her vegetables fresh, Sia sells by order, supplying her customers twice a week. She is looking into the possibility of a van specifically made to transport produce to the market.

Reliable market

Cucumbers are more marketable and when she takes them to the market, she sells about 700 in not more than an hour.

“My customers really like my produce, especially the cucumbers. They like their quality and the fact that I do organic farming gives me a competitive edge,” says Sia.

According to her, securing a bank loan has been a major stumbling block in her business. Many financial institutions require viable collateral such as title deeds and cars which are a challenge to many.

She says climate change is another challenge, especially rainy and hot seasons, to which some crops are not resistant. Such need bigger greenhouses which are really costly.

She swears greenhouse farming is 90 per cent profitable, and that the challenges only account for 10 per cent.

She advises those who would like to invest in agriculture to choose modern farming, since subsistence agriculture is costly and less profitable. They can join groups to help them secure loans for capital from the agricultural bank.

She also calls on fellow women to refrain from solely depending on their husbands but instead engage in income generating activities like farming.

Her future plans include establishing a processing industry that will deal in packaging vegetables for easy shipment all over the world. She says inorder to realise profitable farming, those in the business should avoid using inorganic fertilisers. This she says will help protect the soil for better yields.

“I thank the government for its concerted efforts that aim at improving the agriculture sector. I think as time goes by the governmen’ts industrialisation drive will direct the country to the middle income economy,” she says.