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A bank with a heart for small-scale farmers

With a beaming face, Sanele Koti Dlamini of Ka-Dlovunga area in the Shiselweni Region comes out of her modern-built three-bedroom house to welcome the delegation from SwaziBank. 

The exchange of pleasantries tells you that this is not the first time she is receiving these officers from the capital city. The only difference is that today, the visiting delegation includes SNAU President, Absalom Lukhele, who has also tagged along to see the impact of the project he initiated with the bank about a year ago. SwaziBank and SNAU signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2015.

“Mrs Dlamini, we have just come to see how your piggery project is doing,” says Bhekizwe Maziya, SwaziBank’s Agribusiness Manager. Without further ado, she starts showing us around her piggery shed. There are 10 sows and 2 boars. She is currently raising 36 porkers for the market and some will be ready during the Christmas period. “This project has really changed my life,” she says. “Now I am able to make a contribution towards the improvement of our home, including building more pig houses.” She plans to have an additional 10 sows so that she can sell at least 20 porkers per month.

Sanele is one of 14 pig farmers who have already been granted E30, 000 loans by SwaziBank to help commercialise their piggery projects. The project is currently being piloted in the Shiselweni Region and plans are underway to bring it to other regions as it is already showing signs of success. The bank and SNAU are working with Shiselweni Ngulube Association, as the implementing agency, to reach out to small-scale pig farmers in the region. “A majority of these farmers were not bankable,” says Bonginkhosi Shabangu, SwaziBank’s Agribusiness Appraisal Officer. “However, because we work with their associations they have been found and they have been assisted.”

The loans have primarily been used to purchase pig feed and breeding stock. The process of getting the loans started with some intensive training on pig farming and business management conducted by Lulote Business Management Extension Programme (BMEP). After the training, SwaziBank further cushioned the loans by applying for the Small-Scale Loan Guarantee Scheme housed by the Central Bank of Swaziland. The Scheme guarantees 85 percent of the loan. The applicant puts down a 7 percent deposit and SNAU contributes the other 8 percent on behalf of each farmer. 

The bank’s assistance has also seen the growth and vibrancy of the Shiselweni Ngulube Association. To this extent, the Association has set up a retail business in Nhlangano town which sells animal feed. Members of the Association purchase feed at discounted prices and are also able to buy on credit. As a group, the pig farmers use abattoir facilities at KaMfishane area. “Recently we purchased our own cold-room which can accommodate all meats, including beef, chicken and pork,” says Mr. Mkhwanazi, the chairperson of the Association. The farmers have found a common formal market with Southern Trading Company and recently with Shamrock Meat Wholesalers. While they sometimes complain about late payments, these farmers have a guaranteed market. All they need to do is produce more pigs. In fact, the Association is already in the processing of building its own abattoir facility. They are currently negotiating with government to get access to appropriate land and location. 

Mkhwanazi who is also a beneficiary of the project has built his pig houses using timber at his homestead at Mahlalini area. “The timber provides good ventilation, especially during summer periods,” he says, adding that it was the best option economically.

Thula Bhembe, a secretary at Mhlanga Methodist Primary School in Esikhotseni area, also runs a successful piggery project at her home.  She has six sows and a boar, but she is planning to have at least ten in the near future. She wants to sell at least 36 pigs per month. She used the SwaziBank loan to buy additional breeding stock, a water tank and pig feed. She says the piggery project has helped her take care of her two children and will soon be building additional pig houses and her own house which will have electricity. She revealed that she was able to reduce mortality of her litter by removing them from their lactating mother during the night. “The mother usually sleeps on top of her children during the night, so we just take them away from her and bring them back in the morning,” she says. 

Other farmers visited during the field visit were Sindisiwe Ndlangamandla and Thulisile Ndlangamandla at KaGodloza area. Thulisile has 40 porkers aged two and three months. She is looking forward to selling in December.

The farmers have been advised to apply for additional loans as soon as they have finished repaying the current loans. “Although there is E30, 000 peg to the current loans, it is very likely that the ceiling will be increased to accommodate the different needs of the farmers,” says Maziya.

While SwaziBank seems to have found a niche market in piggery, their service offering in agribusiness financing is broad. It includes Farm Purchase, Sugarcane Farming, Field Crops and Vegetable Farming, Dairy Farming, Poultry Production, Feedlot Farming and Agro-Processing. “We pride ourselves to possess unmatched technical expertise and experience in agribusiness,” says Maziya.

SNAU President expressed appreciation to SwaziBank for taking its time to visit the farmers and encourage them to put more effort in their work. “I have also seen for myself what our members are doing on the ground and it is really pleasing,” he says. “We remain grateful for the partnership with SwaziBank.” He called upon farmers in other regions to be ready for a roll-out of the programme in their areas. He said farmers must consider products that are in demand such as pork production and dairy farming.

Lukhele however expressed concern that the SNAU secretariat was not proactive enough to match the enthusiasm from SwaziBank officials. “At the moment, I see SwaziBank taking the lead when it is supposed to be our officers on the ground paving the way,” says Lukhele. He noted that the office lacks resources to carry out its duties. “We appeal to donors to assist us with transport as we are unable to visit our farmers to carry out proper extension services aimed at developing the farmers,” he says. 

 

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