Mbabane: The European Union (EU) has coined a lasting relationship with the Eswatini Water and Development Enterprise (ESWADE) which has continuous funding of the enterprise.
Through time, the EU has noted that the implementation of the development programmes would not have been successful had it not been for the relationship with ESWADE.
Making this observation was EU Ambassador, Her Excellency Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, mentioning that through various funding instruments, the EU has been actively involved in the development of the agri-business sector in Eswatini since 2006. Aragones said enterprises like ESWADE are making good use of the union’s funding. The Ambassador went on to say ESWADE has supported various EU financed programmes, starting with SHIP.
Her Excellency noted that together with ESWADE, SHIP developed a picture of how the Farmer Company model can develop and how the potential strengths of such a model could be harnessed to modernise smallholder agriculture in the face of a traditional land tenure system.
“The model aggregates households, and allows for marginalised groups like women and youth to also gain access to production resources like land as a part of the farmer companies,” noted the EU Ambassador.
Records gathered by the European Union show that the same model was to be later applied with improvements in the LUSIP I project, also managed by ESWADE. This show that about 1 500 hectors of land were developed in the KDDP, while 2 400 hectors were developed in LUSIP I through the EU support to sugar programmes and with the support of ESWADE.
This project benefitted in excess 2 500 households in both project areas over the years, with a greater percentage of those directly benefitting being women in rural areas. ESWADE is the main development partner in the implementation of the High Value Crop and Horticulture Project (HVCHP), which is the flagship programme the EU has in the 11th EDF (European Development Fund) Agriculture Sector allocation.
Also, since 2015, ESWADE has housed, and managed the HVCHP project with partner parastatal NAMBoard. NAMBoard has three (3) operational functions, which are the Farmers Support and Development Unit, Encabeni Fresh Produce Market and the Regulatory division. These functions are mandated to develop sustainable farming business amongst small holder and commercial farmers in the Kingdom of Eswatini, as well as to ensure provision of food, economic security in our communities and a well governed import, export and transitioning system of agricultural produce.
The project focuses on horticulture commodity value chains, and is in line with the global EU agenda of creation of wealth, jobs and growth for citizens in partner countries like Eswatini.
Meanwhile, the High Value Crop and Horticulture Project (HVCHP) is implemented together with the Water Harvesting, Small and Medium Dams Project, all financed by the EU under the 11th EDF and ESWADE, equally involved through community mobilisation and business development. Aragon noted that both projects come at the tail end of another EU-financed project, the Sustainable Land Management and Administration project which has also been housed within ESWADE since 2016, up to its end in September 2019. “High on the EU and ESWADE agenda has been the promotion of participation of women in community development, which has given them a voice in forging ahead with community development and promoting that they are in positions of power in these companies,” said Aragon.
This is seen in the programs implemented in partnership with ESWADE where 60 per cent of the farmer companies formed are headed by women. Through the HVCHP, these women have been trained not just to be passive in their roles, but assert their views independently and objectively for the success of these companies. Seminars and coaching sessions are periodically convened in collaboration with other women observed as success symbols in their various trades and expertise areas. The HVCHP takes lessons in community mobilisation, and business development from the sugar programs, and ESWADE is spearheading efforts to make such lessons relevant to the horticulture value chain. The project aims at developing 850 hectors of land specifically for horticultural produce, as well as provide for the basic support infrastructure within the sector through pack house and cold rooms construction.
“This is with great effort, unfortunately, as this value chain is not as well structured as the sugar value chain,” observed Aragon. She noted that the partnership between the EU and ESWADE has already broken new grounds in that the project has taken ESWADE to support smallholder agri-business development in areas outside the big water structure interventions as implemented by the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini. The involvement of both the EU and ESWADE in the agribusiness sector has also given confidence in the financial and development institutions in the sector, with the EU being viewed as a de-risking avenue and ESWADE being considered a surety of production and astute business management.
The award of loans by local financial institutions to farmer companies in the HVCHP zones is just starting, and there is an indication of an increased flow of revenue into the sector. Aragon said the EU believes the partnership forged with ESWADE towards the development of the agriculture sector in Eswatini is still to grow, and more programmes within the sector will be developed for the benefit of Emaswati who yearn for such. The EU also believes that the EU and ESWADE will make further advances on integrating women and the youth in the development of the country.
Discussion about this post