Eswatini govt to plough 339 ha for the vulnerable

 Eswatini govt to plough 339 ha for the vulnerable

Eswatini govt to plough 339 ha for the vulnerable.

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Eswatini has dedicated 339 hectares of land to a national agricultural programme meant to provide maize, beans and sorghum for all 339 chiefdoms in all four geographic regions of the country.

Food insecurity affected 14 per cent of the population in 2018, due to high poverty levels, low farming productivity and high prices, according to World Food Programme.

In each chiefdom government has reserved one hectare to strengthen the role played by chiefdoms in the area of food security. In the 2021/2022 budget, an allocation was made for supporting each chiefdom in the country to produce crops of their choice, depending on sustainability, climatic conditions and the needs of the families within that particular area.

Agriculture Minister Jabulani Mabuza said, “Government decided on a programme to support them in the production of maize, beans or sorghum, depending on their ecological zones. As we all know chiefdoms are traditional centres where chiefdom issues are discussed and such issues include both developmental and social issues.”

He said since many chiefdoms have to deal with issues of destitute households and Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) and vulnerable households, they need to be empowered to be able to address the challenges they encounter.

Unpacking the programme, the minister said government, through the National Maize Corporation (NMC), will provide tractors for ploughing and planting; provide inputs such as fertilizer, seeds and herbicides and pesticides.

“The chiefdom headman will be in charge of the management of the crop which includes weeding, spraying, harvesting and ensuring proper storage.  The choice of crop will depend on the ecological location of area but the focus will be on maize, beans and sorghum,” he explained.

He also outlined the following: each headman will be provided with a coupon which will be used to collect inputs from nearest and convenient Agro-dealers; Agricultural Extension Officers distributed in all the corners of the Kingdom will work with headman and advise him and his team on proper management practices and Crop selection.

“As the leading ministry we have prepared a draft action plan that has to be followed in the delivery of the programme. We are aware that we should have introduced to you the programme earlier but the COVID-19 challenges and recent unrest in the country have resulted in the delays,” the minister said.

The proposed plan is includes national launch of programme on Tuesday, a meeting with chiefs during their Regional meetings, selection of fields and crop by headmen with the support of Extension Officers, ploughing and planting at the start of ploughing season (September), crop management, harvesting and proper storage.

The minister said government was optimistic that this programme will make a meaningful contribution in improving the Food and Nutrition Security situation in the country, particularly because it will focus on rural communities where a majority of people live and vast areas of land that can be put into production are available.

Statistics provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) indicate that Eswatini is highly dependent on imports to feed its people, as national production is constrained by frequent droughts, erratic rainfall, prolonged dry spells, inadequate farming technologies, low investment in seeds, fertilizers and equipment, and structural barriers preventing access to formal markets.

Bonisile Makhubu

Bonisile Makhubu is a senior journalist at The Times of Swaziland Group of Newspapers, a company she has worked for over a period of 15 years now. She is based in the Eswatini News department which publishes the Saturday paper. She is also assistant Eswatini News Editor. In this department, she also ran the consumer watch column which focuses on consumer issues. Her specialty is investigative writing and reporting on health, education, women, and children’s issues, even though she has previously worked for the community news department and daily news department where she reported on courts, crime, and general news. She currently holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Eswatini and has attended a series of training programs on investigative journalism, reporting for SADC, and digital and online reporting. I have covered four SADC summits throughout the region. I have also traveled for short training and assignments in countries such as the US, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa while carrying out my duty as a journalist. Bing a mother of three children has also motivated her to remain dedicated to being the voice of the voiceless and to hold the public accountable and present truthful and educational information to the readers at all times.

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