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MBABANE - At least 500 farmers will benefit from E1.2 million that was donated by the European Union (EU).

That was according to the Minister of Agriculture, Jabulani Mabuza, yesterday. The benefit is in the form of farm inputs to be used by the farmers.
According to Mabuza, the farmers to benefit are those in the vegetable production sector.

The minister said this when receiving the cheque from European Union (EU) Ambassador to Eswatini, Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, at the Cabinet Offices yesterday.

The ambassador said the E1.2 million contribution by EU would be managed by the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard).
“It will focus on ensuring that 400 hectares of land is kept under use for the production of about 2 000 metric tons of vegetable produce over the next six months. This project is supported by the National Indicative Programme 2014 – 2020 which has agriculture as a major sector,” she added.


The ambassador narrated that the reason behind the donation was to ensure that the country’s economy was not crippled, especially because it was largely dependent on agriculture production.  She further stated that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic could increase the risk of a food security crisis, particularly for the poor and needy hence the donation to curb such circumstances.

It was established that the E1.2 million, which is approximately EUR58 000, would be channelled to the Eswatini Revolving Fund which is aimed at increasing agricultural production to counter the effects of COVID-19 and supporting the preventive measures introduced by the government, to curb the spread of the virus.

Receiving the donation, the minister appreciated the gesture and stated that the country imported a sizeable proportion of vegetables but due to restricted movements and general slow-down in operations. Eswatini was experiencing shortages in a number of such supplies.

Mabuza said the programme to be supported had four objectives, which were to improve production of targeted vegetables, increase food availability and affordability, increased household income from sale of vegetables and improve farmer liquidity and working capital.
“We as a ministry undertake to ensure that through best farming practices, we will ensure improved availability of basic vegetables in the country throughout the year,” said Mabuza.

He added that they would achieve that through mentoring farmers by their extension specialists, including those from NAMBoard.
He said as a ministry, they identified seven critical vegetable lines including; cabbages, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, sweet pepper, onions and potatoes to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, both in the short and medium terms, as part of the broader food security response.

“The above mentioned interventions will directly address the already evident shortage of the seven critical commodities in the local market, and coupled with global restrictions, unrelenting challenges with moving commodities around as human movement is also restricted,” he said.

 Mabuza said they targeted, through the funding, to mobilise an output of at least 2 500 metric tons of produce by the end of the year.
The produce, according to Mabuza, would be sold to both the formal and informal markets, increasing availability of both food for households and income to farmers from produce delivered to the markets. 

He further stated that the grant would directly support farmers by providing a revolving payment scheme to NAMBoard that covers 25 per cent of the payables, which would also reduce the payment waiting time to 14 days after delivery, so that farmers could quickly re-engage in the next production cycle procurement. Mabuza then appealed to the agricultural business community such as companies, millers and individual farmers to contribute food parcels to be distributed to the needy and vulnerable members of the society. 

“We are specifically looking at maize, mealie-meal, cooking oil, rice and beans. Such support will be highly appreciated,” he said.

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