Red rising good

The best tomatoes taste like sunshine, it is said, but how exactly do you label them? Depending on who you ask, tomatoes are fruits or vegetables. Scientifically speaking, they are fruits, which is why botanists categorise them as such. But nutritionists and cooks insist they are vegetables. The tomato farmers of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh are not bothered about such classifications. Their concern is livelihoods and that’s where the Vijayavahini Charitable Foundation (VCF), an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts, comes in. VCF has been working with farmers in Chittoor since 2019 to enhance the quality, quantity and saleability of the tomatoes they cultivate. The VCF initiative has benefitted more than 6,500 farmers in 12 subdivisions of Chittoor, and the going can only get juicier.

(clockwise from above) Farmers from Mulakalacheruvu in Chittoor district receive training from a VCF volunteer on best practices in cultivating tomatoes; a volunteer shares his observations with farmer Bhasker Reddy (left) and his family on managing blight disease in tomato plants; Sidda Reddy from Tokalapalli village at his farm.

(left) Two farmers from Godavulakota village with a VCF volunteer and the Arka Samrat variety of tomato plants that they grow in their fields; Farmers from Javakalakota village during an exposure visit to a plant nursery to learn about seed variety, seedling selection and nursery management.

(clockwise from above) The Arka Samrat variety of tomato seeds sowed with pro-trays in Mulakalacheruvu; tomato plants being inspected for pests and diseases by visiting research students Messy and Nadav (left) in farmer Viswanath Reddy’s field in Bayappagaripalli village; a yellow sticky trap, used to catch and immobilise pests, in a tomato field in Reddivaripalli village.

(left) A scene from Mandanapalli, Asia’s largest tomato market, which receives up to 1,700 tonnes of the crop every day; farmers from Javakalakota village at a plant nursery.

Compiled by Kainaz Mistry