- MD announces opening on new branch at Buhleni
- Bank partners with UNESWA expert to mitigate effects of climate change in agriculture
Mhlume – In the past three years, Eswatini Bank, through its Agribusiness Unit, has disbursed funds exceeding E315 million to farmers across the country.
This was disclosed by Managing Director (MD) Nozizwe Mulela on her key address during the financial institution’s Agribusiness Forum at Mhlume Country Club. The forum was a networking day for the bank and stakeholders which included farmers and business partners such as the Eswatini Revenue Services (ERS) and the sugar cane industry among others. Mulela said Eswatini Bank’s main mandate is to develop all emaSwati through financial services and credit extension.
The MD highlighted, “the bank has developed a ‘low-cost account’ for farmers’ employees to cushion the blow from inflation, hence emphasising our commitment as a local bank to empowering emaSwati especially in the Agri-business sector. The bank continues to ensure customer-centricity through training and customer forums, while maximising different Credit Guarantee Schemes provided by the Central Bank of Eswatini for strengthened collaboration with key stakeholders including RESC, ESWADE, Ubombo Sugar Estate, NMC, NAMBOARD, World Vision Eswatini & Centre for Financial Inclusion (CFI). This has had a myriad of positives, such as; job creation, economic growth stimulation, poverty reduction, and pro-active farming through the use of technology.”
She continued, “Our Agribusiness Unit is working on expanding our footprint in the Agricultural sector in Eswatini. This upcoming initiative involves partnering directly with farmers in the country to tap into scarcely explored markets in crop production. More information will be shared as soon as the project has taken flight. We have other initiatives in the pipeline that include enlarging our footprint across the country by opening a new branch at Buhleni and offering services that meet worldwide standards. Through these expansions, we want to make our services available to all farmers, especially those living in the outskirts of town.”
Mulela added that food security is an issue that most are vaguely aware of, and they believe that Eswatini Bank should play her role in proactively seeking practical solutions of reducing the impending scarcity. That is why the bank wishes to partner with institutions such as the Royal Eswatini Sugar Corporation and other industry related stakeholders to explore efficient ways to help their clients through financial investment and innovative advisory.
“A close working relationship between farmers and agricultural lenders is essential to the economic growth of agricultural borrowers and the continued success of agriculture within the country. Agriculture remains the mainstay in Eswatini despite the challenges faced, as such, it is important to continue to tailor effective supervision and regulation to ensure the safety and soundness of agriculture financiers, while also making sure that undue burden does not constrain the capacity of these institutions to continue supporting the agricultural communities they serve,” she said.
The MD said it was important for them to note that climate change is a reality and it therefore remains a top priority to the bank. She said that is why Eswatini Bank working with the University of Eswatini (UNESWA), the Faculty of Agriculture has aptly identified a small team of multi-sectoral experts, led by Professor Ambrose Manyatsi who will be determining how the bank is going to assist the agricultural sector in dealing with climate change and adaptability. This team will assess what farmers are going through, how it is affecting their bottom line and how they can improve it.
Feedback will then be presented by the team to stakeholders so that implementation towards mitigating against climate change can begin. Mulela said this is one way the bank endeavours to take a leading role in innovation and in enacting proposed solutions and their implementation.
Meanwhile, RES Corporation MD Nick Jackson explained about the industry structure noting that it is made up of millers and growers. There is a Sugar Act and a Sugar Agreement. The Sugar Act talks to the structure of the industry and the Agreement on how it will work. He said everything is done by consensus as there is equal representation by millers and growers. Council is the governing body – similar to a board.
Sugar Association (ESA) is the management who do the work. Current projects include Land expansion which incorporates Land clearing, Irrigation and civil works as well as Planting and tillage works. There is also Factory expansion that incorporates Design and project management as well as Supply and installation Sensitivity. Jackson also hinted on Future projects that include Electricity production (worth E5 billion) which incorporates Biomass boilers, Solar plants, Hydro plants and Electrical infrastructure There is also Alcohol production (worth E0.5billion) and incorporates Design and project management as well as supply and installation.
Long term projects include the production of bioplastics from sugar cane, supply of biomass for electricity generation, Eco tourism at and around Sand River Dam and Diversification into other agricultural crops.