This year’s Agribusiness Fair & School Festival was the third instalment of an event pioneered by a group of fourth year students studying Agricultural Economics and Management in 2015. The students had constituted themselves into a company called Smiling Through Investments in fulfillment of their entrepreneurial project.
The theme of this year’s event was “unlocking business opportunities through information and communications technology.” Activities included the display and promotion of agricultural produce and seminars.
The fair started with the Agribusiness School Festival with a focus on unlocking agribusiness opportunities for the youth. Form 4 and 5 students from several schools across the country attended a seminar aimed at inculcating financial literacy and work readiness. Junior Achievement facilitated the seminar.
The second day focused on unlocking agribusiness opportunities through ICT. Farmers were sensitized about the on-going assembly of ICT oriented applications to improve their production and access markets.
All departments within the Faculty of Agriculture exhibited. They included the Agricultural and BioSystems Engineering, Agricultural Economics and Management, Agricultural Education and Extension, Animal Science, Consumer Sciences, Crop Production and Horticulture. Notably, the university has developed most of these disciplines up to PhD level.
Other exhibitors were Swaziland Enterprise Development Company (SEDCO), NAMBoard, MacMillan, SwaziTrac, Swaziland Dairy Board, SwaziBank, Swaziland National Agricultural Union (SNAU), National Maize Corporation (NMC) and Liberty.
During the seminar, SNAU called for the formal recognition of the farmers’ union. “SNAU is not registered through an Act of Parliament,” said SNAU President, Absalom Lukhele. He said the union is only registered as a not-for-profit organisation, making their viability and future “not fully secured.”
Lukhele also urged the university to forge partnership with small-holder farmers “to ensure a vibrant production of food.”
The seminar also discussed the issue of the Land Policy in Swaziland, which they found to be a stumbling block to the aspirations of farmers. “We cannot move forward without the policy,” said a Mr. Mabuza, one of the smallholder farmers. It was noted that there were about 8 drafts of the land policy gathering dust at the Ministry of Agriculture.
The meeting also suggested that the university should incubate some of its graduates to work in government farms that are currently lying idle in an effort to ensure absorption of graduates in the work place and increase local production. The meeting expressed concern of agricultural imports which are constantly on the increase. “We are tied of these big trucks coming through our borders,” said one speaker.