By Nokunceda Magagula
Mahlangatsha Member of Parliament, Mgucisi Dlamini celebrated yet another victory after he was crowned the Top Farmer in the NMC Farmers Awards. The triumphant Dlamini walked home smiling after he won himself a cash prize of E40,000.
Hosted by the National Maize Corporation (NMC), the award ceremony was held at the Gorge Hotel in Manzini on October 19, 2023, and it was intended to recognize and reward maize and beans farmers who played a vital role in increasing their produce which they subsequently sell to the NMC.
The awards were in six categories to honour the farmers and the most anticipated sort was the ‘Top Farmer’ category. In this category, ten farmers were selected based on the amount of maize they sold to NMC. The number one spot in this category was obtained by the newly elected Member of Parliament, who has held this position for the past five years. NMC announced that Dlamini sold 247 tons of maize to NMC.
Dlamini was followed by Ka-Boyce’s former head teacher, Simon Mthunzi, who sold 88 tons of maize to NMC and won the ‘Top Lead Farmers’ award. In the third position was the Member of Parliament’s mother, Thembisile Dlamini, who sold 79.8 tons of maize. It’s worth noting that Dlamini also won the “Top Woman Farmer of the Year” award. Bongiwe Makhubu, who managed to sell 56.1 tons of maize, was number 4, followed by Johane Ndlangamandla, who sold 54 tons of maize, taking the number 5 spot.
Number 6 was Lungani Nkumane, who sold 53 tons, number 7 was Gcina Shabangu, who sold 51.7 tons of maize, and number 8 was Thami Ndzabukelwako, who sold 51.1 tons. The second-to-last winner on the list was Bongani Vilakati, who sold 50.8 tons, and number 10 was Sibongikhosi Johnson with 50.6 tons.
The top ten in this category received different cash prizes, and the top three also received trophies. The Member of Parliament was represented by his wife, Lungile Dlamini, who received the award on his behalf and expressed her gratitude to the NMC for encouraging them to work hard and produce more.
Dlamini challenged the youth to strive for the top spot and have the courage to displace the Dlamini family from the number one position they have held comfortably for five years. “I encourage the youth to find ways to surpass us and claim the top spot,” Dlamini said.
She went on to encourage more women to support their farmer husbands and join them in the fields.
She stated that to help her husband reach his current position, she had to work alongside him in the fields. “When I return from work, I often find myself driving a tractor to the fields because I support my husband,” Dlamini emphasized.
The MP’s wife further urged male farmers to involve their wives in farming, so they could provide valuable assistance to the family business. She shared that she is eager to accompany her husband everywhere he goes to learn and contribute to the family’s farming endeavours.
In closing, Dlamini jokingly remarked that if no one takes the initiative to challenge their number one position, she might receive the same award next year. Strikingly, the Ministry of Agriculture PS Sydney Simelane congratulated MP Dlamini for excelling at the NMC awards. He expressed hope that Dlamini wouldn’t neglect farming, emphasizing the need to balance his parliamentary duties and agricultural responsibilities.
PS Sydney Simelane made these remarks while speaking through the Ministry’s Under Secretary, Gugu Shabangu Nxumalo, at the National Maize Corporation Awards. The PS acknowledged the essential role played by the Grain Farmers Associations, which is chaired by Dlamini, stating that their collective voice and efforts would contribute to Eswatini’s food security.
Regarding the commendable efforts of the NMC in training farmers, the PS mentioned that he had been informed that the Grain Farmers Association had been collaborating with the NMC to train its members just a few weeks ago. “What I found particularly interesting was that the trainers were farmers themselves. Sometimes, peer-to-peer training can be more effective. We anticipate more productive engagements among yourselves,” the PS asserted.
The PS went on to express gratitude to all stakeholders who are working diligently to provide regular support to farmers, aiming to increase production. He emphasized that food security can only be achieved through collaborative efforts involving various stakeholders, including Agro-dealers, private tractor owners, financiers, development partners, and the public sector.
On the topic of food security, the PS stressed its critical importance: “The issue of food security is paramount because it is the cornerstone of a well-performing economy. A food-secure country will experience economic growth, job creation, political stability, and much more.”
The PS explained that the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini has been investing in agriculture to enhance the nation’s food security. He mentioned that the country has established RDAs for the decentralization of government services, introduced the Tractor Hire Service, initiated the Inputs Subsidy Program, built dams for irrigation, and created accessible funds for farmers, such as Hamba Ubuye, the horticulture revolving fund, the Agriculture Development Fund, the Youth Fund, the Tinkhundla fund, among others.
Furthermore, the PS noted that the government has recently encouraged farmers to apply for the use of government farms. All of these initiatives aim to increase production and ultimately ensure food security in the country.