By Phephile Motau
The Minister of Agriculture Jabulani Mabuza has officially launched the E44 million Commercial Maize Project.
The project aims to transform agriculture into a modernised, sustainable and export-oriented sector that contributes to improved food security and overall economic development as per the Agriculture Strategy 2018-2023.
Mabuza said that aligned to this strategy, is intensified maize production, which has been identified as an essential aspect of agriculture and food security for the country.
“Evidently, maize is a staple crop that provides food and income for millions. However, it is often plagued by challenges like pests and diseases, climate change, and limited access to quality inputs and resources,” he said.
The minister said the new project is aimed at commercialising maize production in Eswatini, and by extension, will circumvent some of the above-cited challenges.
He further pre-empted the success of this project, by virtue of the two implementing agents being the Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE)and the National Maize Cooperation (NMC), whom he said were accredited, for efficient project implementation and service delivery.
He thanked the government for committing the sum of E44 million to the commercial maize revolving fund which will run over three years. The government has also availed some of her farms including Ngwempisi, Nkalashane, and Buseleni, in a bid to boost maize production in the country.
“I also want to single out and commend another key partner; His Majesty’s Correctional Services who have committed 114ha towards commercial maize production on their Bhalekane Farm. Considering the national demand for maize, more production land shall be committed to this project,” Mabuza said.
The minister said in the initial season, a total of 17 farmers were supported through the maize input support Revolving Fund dubbed “HAMBA UBUYE”. The total value of inputs and area under production was E839 074.00 and 172.5ha respectively.
“I have since been reliably informed that farmers were able to repay E766 313.30 of the total amount loaned to them, giving a 91.3 per cent success rate of the revolving fund Hamba Ubuye”, Mabuza said.
He said in the 2022/23 season, a total of 73 farmers (36 farmers in the Shiselweni, 11 farmers in the Hhohho, 16 farmers in the Manzini, and 10 in the Lubombo regions) benefitted from the Fund through input credit to the value of E4 968 026.56.
Through this support, the total area planted is 545,2 ha and the projected yield is 2,726 metric tons, this will generate a total income to the value of E14.7 million to emaSwati farmers under SNL. Fifteen (15) women and seven (7) youth are reported to be active farmers under this programme.