Mbabane: ESWADE, having successfully piloted beef production in areas under Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP I), the European Union (EU) has pumped in over E144 million (9 million Euros) for the implementation of beef and goat meat production in Eswatini.
The livestock project is being rolled being rolled out under an EU funded livestock project which would also be executed by ESWADE. According to ESWADE Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sam Sithole, the money was given by the EU as a grant for the implementation of the first of its kind beef and goat meat project across the country.
Sithole said ESWADE will have to pick some areas where prospects of acceptance by the farmers are very high. Sithole was quick to clarify that choosing preferred areas doesn’t suggest the project will not be rolled out to other areas. “The project is being rolled out in full swing and we are currently working on the implementation plan and by next year March, we will start the implementation stage,” he explained.
Speaking about which areas which had been identified to implement the project, Sithole said the areas will be identified in the implementation plan, but it would mainly areas with chiefdom development plans and that has been the key element of our ESWADE’s working with communities. “We need to go to a community that will be dedicated in livestock production. We will be going to Lavumisa not to on the already developed crop areas including KDDP and LUSIP. Lavumisa and surrounding areas will be the main focus for a start because that is where our best beef is coming from,” Sithole said.
He went on to say: “But that is not going to be the end of it, it would be just the start because we have other communities. In fact the low veld region has communities that thrive on livestock production.” He said ESWADE would be going to those communities and will try to cover the low veld and middle veld. “The Highveld is a crop area, but it does not necessarily mean they do not do livestock production, so they would be pockets there,” he said. Sithole said ESWADE is good to start rolling out the project in a region where the projects will be accepted and well implemented and then “we will roll it out to the entire country.”
Another project where ESWADE is making huge strides in implementing is the Smallholder Led Project (SMLP).
ESWADE became involved in this project because of its demonstrated record of managing funds and execution of projects. In fact, SMLP was supposed to be executed by government (Ministry of Agriculture), but because government lacks the capacity to handle funds from international financiers, ESWADE was asked to come and execute the project.
With its offices being built at Mkhondvo, this E200 million project is aimed at alleviating poverty in 37 chiefdoms in Lubombo and Shiselweni. According to Sithole, the benefitting chiefdoms were identified during the project design stage.
The project is funded by IFAD. Sithole said the SMLP is aimed at alleviating poverty trough small scale projects which include but not limited to vegetables production, bee keeping, maize farming, and farming beans. In addition to the small scale agricultural projects, benefiting communities are taught how the built cement tanks used for water harvesting which is eventually used for domestic use and watering their vegetables in their backyard gardens. Sithole said those who specialise in building the cement tanks then build more tanks for other communities and through that they are paid for their job. “One can safely say this project was designed to keep communities busy while they generate income at the same time,” Sithole said.
There are other communities who focus on beef or goat meat production. To those focusing on goat meat production, ESWADE assist them with providing with the best breeds of bucks for cross-breeding to improve the quality of their stocks. ESWADE doesn’t end there, but went an extra mile of connecting the farmers to markets. “Of course we are doing very well and we are also conducting auctions for cattle farmers,” he said.
Another part of the project is the construction of small earth dams which are strategically located at the mouth of perennial streams and those dams are used to irrigate vegetables. In areas where the dams would be constructed, each farmer will be allocated 0.3 hectares to grow vegetables out of a total of 20 hectares. “We plan to construct 19 earth dams in total in the benefiting regions. The farmers producing the vegetables are also linked to the markets by ESWADE as well.
The implementation of the SMLP is in line with government’s agenda of stimulating the country’s economy through agriculture as stated by Minister for Finance Neal Rijkenberg in his maiden budget speech he delivered in February.
The minister conceded that agriculture plays a large role in stimulating the economy and driving transformation in the country’s rural communities.
Rijkenberg said, in an effort to mitigate the severity of climate change and improve agricultural productivity, government has prioritized the implementation of projects relating to water harvesting and irrigation development to increase agricultural production.
“Government is accelerating the construction of dams and irrigation schemes in various areas. Budgetary allocations have been made to finalise feasibility studies for large dams in the South of Eswatini, to increase Eswatini’s irrigation potential by another 25 000 hectares,” Rijkenberg said.
Additionally, the minister said the second phase of LUSIP seeks to develop approximately 5 700 hectares which will be used for agricultural production.
He said the achievement of increased crop and livestock production addresses the challenge of food insecurity and poverty. The minister said high production levels are expected to ensure food self-sufficiency while at the same time facilitating import substitution and export promotion.