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Engineer leading the way to commercial farming in Swaziland

In October 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture, together with the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard), recognized farmers in vegetable production at a ceremony held at Mphophoma Training and Centre in Malkerns. These awards were jointly held with the National Maize Competition presentation by the National Maize Corporation (NMC). Both competitions are aimed at increasing agricultural production in Swaziland to achieve food security by 2022.

Lloyd Dlamini, a commercial vegetable farmer based in Sigcineni area near Sidvokodo in the Manzini Region, emerged the overall winner and received the CEO’s special prize. He received inputs and fertilizer worth E10, 000.

Dlamini produces baby vegetables on a 70ha farm, 30ha of which has been developed and equipped with a drip irrigation system. About 40ha of the farm is arable. His main crops are baby marrows, pattypans and green beans. He also produces conventional vegetables including tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes. All his produce is sold to NAMBoard. “I have contracts with NAMBoard which are so far working very well,” he says. He produces an average 15-30 tonnes of vegetables per month, depending on the season. Vegetables production usually reaches its peak during the winter period.

In addition to growing up in a farming environment at his home in Sigombeni area in the Manzini Region, Dlamini’s success in farming has come about as a result of his drive and passion for business and entrepreneurship. Boasting of an Msc in Transport Engineering, Dlamini is the Managing Director of Dlamini-Gibb Swaziland, a local branch of the international engineering consulting firm, Gibb Engineering and Architecture. “Farming should no longer be regarded as a hobby; it is a business and a science. Until you recognize this fact, you will not make it,” he says. Consistent with this philosophy, Dlamini has applied business principles in running the farm and has employed a qualified agronomist to manage the farm, a Mr. Maganda from Zimbabwe.

The farm employs 15 full-time workers and more than 50 casual workers. “Depending on the type of work involved such as planting and harvesting, we have more than 50 people continuously working on the farm,” says Dlamini. The employees come from the Sigcineni community and surrounding areas.

The farm is financed by Standard Bank and is equipped with tractors and all other implements. A portion of the farm is also financed by FINCORP. “If you manage your farm like a business, financiers will always listen to your story,” he says. In this regard, he is challenging other chief executives in corporate Swaziland to consider venturing into commercial agriculture. “These people have the means and skills to run businesses and they can easily succeed in commercial farming,” he says. Dlamini reckons that some of the executives already own farms which are either lying idle or not used for commercial production. “The solution for food security lies with commercial farming,” he says. “If executives in corporate Swaziland were to consider commercial farming, the country would attain its vision of food security and there will be no need for foreign imports.”

Further, Dlamini implores government and all stakeholders to assist small scale farmers in Swazi Nation Land (SNL) to also commercialise their farming. “It is vital that rural farmers are given skills to commercialise their ventures,” he says.

Dlamini has endured a difficult farming period as a result of the drought. “It has been very difficult,” he says. “Our canal ran dry at some point and we lost some crop.” 

Despite the difficult times, Dlamini is set to increase production by cultivating the whole farm in the current season. “I am going full scale now because I have realized that this is working for me,” he says. “Water is now available and I have a market. There is just no reason to stop.”

 


IFAD pumps in E350 million to commercialise smallholder farmers

The smallholder Market -Led Project (SMLP) is set to provide a lifeline for farmers in drought prone areas through market led commercialisation of their agricultural produce. USD$24.5million has been allocated for the project.

The Smallholder farmers from 37 chiefdoms in Manzini, Lubombo and Shiselweni regions will benefit from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) together with Global Environment Facility IFAD/GEF. The SMLP was born out from LUSLM, which is an upscale of the project and intends on building in the commercialization of smallholder production, which was not part of the LUSLM project. The market-led project will assist farmers to sustainably enhance their food and nutrition security and incomes through diversified climate resilient agricultural productivity and market linkages. 

The SMLP is aimed at reducing poverty and food insecurity through increased agricultural productivity and commercialisation. 

There are a number of stakeholders involved in the project. They include Eswatini Kitchen, NAMBoard and Technoserve. The project will run for six years and about 15 000 rural households are expected to benefit. 

Already about 1 650 smallholder applications have been received. A further allocation of 350 hectares has been allocated by local chiefs. About 200ha of erosion prone and erosion affected areas will be restored.

Speaking during the launch of the project, SMLP National Project Director, Lynn Kota emphasised the importance of consistent production, saying farmers should be able to produce what is needed by the market.  

Farmers are expected to produce in a consistent manner focusing on quality and quantity of their produce. This project will not only look at finding market linkages for the smallholder farmers but will enhance the upscaling of good agricultural practices. “We are also hoping these targeted regions will upscale the project to the Hhohho region,” she said.

Minister of Agriculture, Moses Vilakati said Government is a co-funder of the project aimed at reducing poverty and increasing  food security for rural people.

The Minister added that in order to mitigate climate change, it is important to adopt crop varieties and livestock breeds that are able to cope with the prevailing adverse conditions. 

The SMLP will help the targeted communities with knowledge advancement on water harvesting technologies at household level. This will help in embarking on irrigated crop production in order to minimize poverty.

While the project is crafted on basis of LUSLM, the current project area builds up on ten chiefdoms from the now completed LUSLM project. The SMLP is divided into three components.

Component One

This will promote Chiefdom development activities in economically active households. This will be done by processing of data on the Chiefdom’s resource base, population, bottlenecks, opportunities and development options and priorities into a Chiefdom Development Plan.

Component two

It will help in delivering investments in soil and water harvesting at sub-catchment and homesteads level. This component will also help to harness resources for market led agricultural production. Infrastructure will help safeguard production by preventing erosion of productive land in order to avoid silting of water reservoirs and run-offs for agricultural processes. Close to 18 small earth dams will be rehabilitated with two new earth dams being constructed. Water harvesting equipments will be installed at household level.

Component three

The SMLP will use existing unfulfilled market demands at the entry point for agricultural development. This component will look at investing in value chain partnering in order to source demand for smallholder farmers. NAMBoard and other marketing stakeholders will take part in this component to link smallholder farmers to markets. 

This market led project will also assist Rural development Area (RDAs) to offer services to target group in scaling up interventions to national and regional levels. The approach will be through land degradation, ecosystem, health surveillance framework, institutional framework for CDP, consolidation of sustainable land and water management practices.

Mining industry challenged to process before exporting

The declining Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenues call for the diversification of Swaziland’s economy. One of the potential areas which can significantly contribute to growing the Gross Domestic Product (DGP) is mining.

At a Mining Indaba organised by Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), held at Ezulwini in September, stakeholders identified a need to diversify the economy by improving the mining industry towards value addition of minerals produced locally.

This was also the view of Government who acknowledged the positive contribution the mining industry can make in economic growth by processing locally produced raw minerals  to be exported outside the SACU markets. 

The meeting recognised that exploring the mining sector to bolster the Swazi economy can also be done through diversifying the export base, generating skilled employment, creating demand for local goods and services. 

This will also widen the tax base.  The Commissioner of Mines, Samuel Ntshalintshali, revealed that his office has been receiving applications from prospective mining companies, including Swazi companies. He stated that they will only grant licences to companies that will also process the minerals they will be extracting.

The Commissioner stated that for mines to get to a processing phase locally, they need to reach a certain level of operation. There are guidelines for extractive industries that mine operators should follow. The SADC guidelines for extract industry 2015 allows countries to recognize the value of protected areas and biodiversity, and to have remedial measures to safeguard ecosystems. Biotech and Science parks can also boost the processing of minerals locally and that research on how to add value to the minerals can be done.

Swaziland Environmental Authority also confirmed that some mines face closure as a result of failure to comply with the guidelines.  “Mining takes place in pristine areas which depicts the current status within the mining industry,” stated SEA’s Gcina Dladla . “We should also note on implications of the dumps thus the environment should be sustained before mining takes place.”

Swaziland has limited natural resources. They include iron ore, coal, diamond and forestry. There are also gold deposits, barite, ball clays, kaolin, quarried stone and silica. All these minerals can be used for processing to export markets and can act as a catalyst for the wider investment in the economy.

 The Central Bank of Swaziland has projected a decline in GDP. In 2017 GDP was expected to be at 2.6 percent but currently the signs are negative. Modest growth was only expected in the livestock, forestry, mining and quarrying subsectors.  The mining and quarrying sectorial growth rates was projected at -11.5 percent in 2015, 3.9 percent in 2016 and in 2017 a decline is expected at -0.4 percent.

With such projections of a declining GDP, there is a need of improving the economy by processing raw minerals. At the moment, the country mines and exports coal after iron ore production was stopped in September 2014 due to over 50 percent drop in iron ore in World markets. About 60 percent deposits of iron ore were in the Ngwenya gold mine. However, Salgaocar (Pty) Ltd had proposed to reprocess the iron ore dumps which was estimated at 32MT of dump hematite iron ore with an average grade of 44.5 percent.  Much of the dump of about 58 percent was trucked to Mozambique and then exported to China. Production at the mine was stopped due to failure to comply with agreed guidelines. It has been eight months since His Majesty King Mswati III commissioned Lufafa Gold Mines in northern Hhohho. The investor Lomati (Pty) Ltd assured the nation and the King that exporting the semi done gold would bring much desired Swaziland income. 

 

BY DEBRA KHUMALO

 

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