Mbabane: Looking at Komati before the execution of the KDDP by ESWADE, it was quite a remote area which didn’t have access roads, but today it boasts tarmac roads and easily accessible places, which benefits even those who are not under the project development area. In fact, the benefits are enjoyed by all Emaswati using the road to Mananga Border Post in the eastern part of the country. The public is now able to drive comfortably.
Looking at the connection between Komati and Pigg’s Peak in the northern part of the country the road network is exceptional and makes it easier to reach Pigg’s Peak via Komati via Mbabane.
This is one infrastructure that has gone in there, but one major commodity which has been implemented in the past few years with the intervention of ESWADE is water. Access to water for irrigation and domestic use (potable water) has been made possible. Such has made a significance difference in the lives of the communities under the project development area.
ESWADE Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sam Sithole told Independent News: “In terms of communities’ connectivity to portable water, its basically 100 per cent.” However, he acknowledged that they had faced some challenges with some of the community members who failed to pay for the electricity bills activate the engines which pump water into the water taps. “But we are happy that ESWADE made sure that the infrastructure is there,” said Sithole. The CEO went on to say it becomes the communities’ choice to pay or not.
“And we are speaking about a majority of people who are benefitting from the PDA where ESWADE achieved 6 000 hectors of land developed mainly for sugarcane and alternative crops,” said Sithole.
In terms of beneficiaries, ESWADE exceeded 20 000 people, constituted by 3000 households participating in the commercial activities.
At household level, Sithole said ESWADE introduced a programme called ‘one household, many fruit trees’ where each household has a number of fruit trees at its backyard with the potable water being within at a reasonable distance, which enables them to irrigate the trees.
Sithole further stated that the households have backyard gardens mainly because Komati has a fair share of support from government, when looking at what government has contributed. Government invested 40 per cent and 60 per cent came from international financiers.
Interestingly, ESWADE’s well execution of the KDDP resulted in Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC) investing over E1 billion for expanding the sugar mill to accommodate sugarcane from the project area. Farmer companies under KDDP contribute about 25 per cent of the total tonnage of cane that is delivered at the Mhlume Sugar Mill annually.
“That means we have very good support from government and from the private sector. Even with the other crops at KDDP, it accounts for about 400 hectares of the total area,” he said.
Commenting on education level, Sithole noted that it is now at a higher level than before more so because of the development of access roads and also due to the fact that the community members now have money which they generate from the growing of sugarcane and other crops.
The CEO told this publication that there are now minimal challenges where people fail to raise money to take their children to school. “The very infrastructure there is enabling them to have access to schools they couldn’t access before – they couldn’t go to Mananga for instance and other better schools because of the unavailability of roads and transportation facilities by then. Now all these things are there,” he stated.
Sithole also mentioned that due to government’s intervention through ESWADE’s execution of KDDP, Madlangampisi is becoming a town and Tjaneni has drastically transformed because there is a lot of money in circulation. According to the CEO money in circulation within the project area is in excess of E200 million per year.
What we pride ourselves with is that this is new money in the country which has never been there before and these communities were living with hand-outs from government but now they are basically contributing to the economic development of the country, through paying tax.
ESWADE lauds other stakeholders for KDDP successful execution
ESWADE CEO Sam Sithole has heaped praises to other stakeholders for supporting them in the execution of KDDP.
Sithole said they had received support from other government companies including National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard), and National Maize Corporation (NMC). The CEO said these two companies were offering technical support to the farmers among other interventions. He further said they received tremendous support even from private companies including Sidemane which provided a market for the vegetables producing farmers.
Sithole thanked the European Union for pumping in grants for the last bit of sugarcane development and the last bit of potable water installation in the project area.
“We also received funding from the African Development Bank, and that funding was channelled to our commercial banks, FINCORP, IDCE, who in turn loaned to the farmers,” he disclosed.
Sithole also applauded the farmers for being in good standing with their financiers which include commercial banks is as far as repayment of their loans is concerned. “We are also happy that the farmers have paid back their loans quite well. On the sugarcane side, we have a 100 per cent success rate in terms of paying back the loans. We struggled with the other crops because of their nature, as they are still under development and there is a lot that is still lacking and a lot of work we still need to do,” he said.
He then highlighted a project that has come in to assist the country in terms of developing the other crops other than sugarcane and that is the High Value Horticulture Project funded by the EU. He said this project has created markets in the form of pack houses in the country so that farmers can produce and sell to the pack houses who then pack and distribute to the broader market of that produce.
Sithole said he has been won over that this was a step in the right direction, adding that the EU provided funding to capacitate NAMBoard in terms of transportation and for providing cold stores in the main markets – Manzini, Matsapha and Mbabane.
The Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE) is a government company established by the Government of Eswatini in 1999 to facilitate the planning and implementation of the Komati Downstream development Project (KDDP) and Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP) and any other large water and agricultural development project that government may assign.
Funded by mainly the European Union (EU), initially, the company was called the Swaziland Komati Project Enterprise (SKPE) and was solely responsible for the planning, facilitating and development of the KDDP. When the LUSIP came on board, the company’s name was changed to the ESWADE to ensure that the name was inclusive.