By Silindzelwe Nxumalo
The Ubombo Sugar Limited (USL) and EWADE have renewed their vows through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) where they intend to collaborate to plant sugar cane in 4 000 hectares (ha) of the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP II).
The signing event was held at Ubombo Country Club in Big Bend on November 31, 2023. EWADE’s Samson Sithole said the partnership or collaboration came a long way back since the inception of the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP) in 2005.
Sithole stated that over the past 18 years, the EWADE and the USL had collaborated successfully in the delivery of the LUSIP Phase 1 objectives, and now the ongoing LUSIP Phase Il, founded on the mutually shared objective to leave no one behind on issues of poverty alleviation through the establishment of sustainable and profitable farming businesses with emphases in sugarcane production.
He mentioned that major milestones had been achieved, accomplishing the 5 000-ha target for sugarcane under LUSIP’1 from 2009-2018 in 56 farmer companies. “Some of these achievements have been celebrated through the successful implementation of the Ubombo Swaziland Sugar Facility (USSF) in 2015-18 as well as the annual smallholder sugarcane grower’s competition wherein all the LUSIP farmers participate effectively,” he said.
Sithole also stated that moving to the LUSIP Phase II, this collaboration looked to improve the implementation efficiency by allowing a well-defined separation of duties and responsibilities allowing the USL to take full responsibility for the 4 000 ha targeted for sugarcane establishment once EWADE had ensured infrastructure for the Farmer Companies.
He added that they believed that a solid foundation had been laid, and the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and the entire Sugar Industry as well as community leadership would facilitate a springboard towards a sustainable and improved agri-business opportunity in the communities they serve.
“Today we officially sign an MoU of a tested and proven relationship between US and WADE. We are already underway in seeking to establish similar value chain relationships for the other value chains of banana, vegetables, and beans or maize,” he said.
USL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Muzi Siyaya mentioned that the objective of this MoU was that through this MoU they planned to ensure the successful establishment of new farming companies in the 4,000-hectare LUSIP II Scheme.
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Siyaya stated that this partnership was undertaken through the provision of technical support from USL and ESWADE to the newly created farming companies. “USL has Grower support teams that are contracted through Eswatini Sugar Association to provide extension support to Growers in the Ubombo Sugar mill supply area,” he said.
He added that ESWADE had facilitated, designed, and implemented the bulk infrastructure and irrigation of the scheme. Siyaya stated that the intention was for USL to take oversight of the crop establishment and husbandry operations, using the existing USL extension team and which operations would be implemented through service providers in consultation with the Growers.
He stated that this partnership was important for them because with the challenges they faced in LISIP I they were now ready to take all the lessons learned in LUSIP I and implement them in LUSIP II.
LUSIP I is a project that was implemented in 2005 after the EWADE KDDP project came to an end. The LUSIP I project came to an end in 2012 which marked the beginning of LUSIP II. LUSIP II began in 2016 and has targets 4 000 sugarcane hectares and 1 200 hectares for alternative crops.
The LUSIP Phase II is an extension of LUSIP Phase I and it seeks to extend the Main Canal South (MCS) to service irrigation blocks in the greater Matata area. A net irrigation area of 5 750 ha consisting of about 5 273 ha of new irrigation area and 433 ha of existing irrigation has been brought under command of the LUSIP II canal system. The loan estimate for this entire project is E588.6 million.