The Tomato Jos dream began in 2008, when Mira Mehta encountered her first tomato market glut in Northern Nigeria. Farmers had lined the roads with tomatoes in an effort to dry and preserve them, because prices were at an all-time low. The more Mira learned, the stranger the story got. Nigerian farmers produced 65% of the tomatoes grown in West Africa, but paradoxically, it was also the largest importer of tomato paste in the world. It just didn’t make any sense – why import all that paste when Nigeria already grew so many tomatoes? This was clearly a huge problem, but it also seemed like a huge opportunity.
Six years later, Mira finally decided to stop dreaming and start acting. She teamed up with co-founder Shane Kiernan to launch Tomato Jos: a for-profit social enterprise whose mission is to make farming profitable and sustainable for smallholder farmers. In late 2014, the team set up operations in Panda, Nasarawa State, a few hours outside of Jos, and started farming. And boy, was the learning curve steep! The company weathered more than a few storms during the first growing season, battling everything from tomato viruses to water shortages to a virtual shutdown of operations during the 2015 election period. But as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Today, Tomato Jos has over 20 employees, and we believe in the dream more than ever. Our model hasn’t changed – we still help smallholder farmers to grow excellent tomatoes, and this spring we will use those tomatoes to make high-quality tomato paste. The farmers who partner with us receive support during the growing season, and are guaranteed a fair, consistent price when their crops are ready for harvest. And once our product hits the market, the consumers will get to eat fresh, delicious tomato paste while supporting the Nigerian economy.
Whether you’re a farmer or not, we invite you to step into our world and join the #TeamTomatoJos community!