By Gcina Ginindza 16 October 2018
A view of the Intamakuphila scheme, one of the schemes to benefit from the project
Comesa and UNDP have once again joined forces to implement a project titled Increasing Farmer Resilience to Climate Change-Upscaling Market Oriented Climate Smart Agriculture Project. This initiative will improve and upscale the positives learnt from the first of such kind which was implemented at Mpatheni, in the Shiselweni region. The project’s start date is 01 July 2018 and it seeks to improve the resilience of Swazi farmers to the climate change phenomena that has been experienced in the country in recent years. In the Kingdom of Eswatini, the initiative is expected to impact over 500 farmers (3,000 household members) producing fresh fruit, vegetables and high value field crops, 1,500 farmers practicing climate smart agriculture (CSA), and create jobs for at least 1,000 people (mostly the youth and women). The total grant value of the project is about E13 million emalangeni.
The National Agricultural Marketing Board(NAMBoard) has once again been entrusted with being the implementing partner on the ground. Having successfully seen the implementation of the Mpatheni project, NAMBoard has been roped in to oversee the improvement of farmer resilience in two earmarked schemes; Intamakuphila scheme situated within Ngwempisi Inkhundla and Mavulandlela scheme situated within Ntfonjeni Inkhundla.
In particular, this project aims at improving the production levels of the schemes and improving the linkages between farmers and the markets. The members of the schemes will be enhanced such that by project close, they should be able to run profitable vegetable production units.
The improvements coming with the project touches on improved management of water sources, including watershed protection for reduced irrigation infrastructure leakages. About 60 ha of irrigated land converted to more water efficient systems through adoption of the drip irrigation technology, if the inception assessment does indeed show that adoption of this technology will increase water use efficiency.
Currently the furrow irrigation system used at both Intamakuphila and Mavulandlela
Farmers will be linked to formal value chains and generating an income from sustainable markets as provided by NAMBoard. Where feasible, it is envisaged that the field-based cold storage facilities will be rehabilitated. This seeks to enhance the quality of the produce reaching the markets as the cold chain will be enhanced whilst produce waits for collection. Mechanized conservation agriculture equipment to upscale production, this equipment will be made available to the schemes and neighboring farmers. Other crops such as maize and beans will also benefit from the climate smart initiatives as the project seeks to holistically improve the resilience of farmers to adverse climate change.
Improved access to resources through the establishment and management of a revolving loan fund, the farmers will be taught on managing a revolving fund. This fund will be used to loan farmers inputs such a seeds, fertilizer, chemicals and other necessities for vegetable production. The farmer is expected to pay back the loan with proceeds from his/her sales. A model will be advocated whereby a minimal percentage of the proceeds is channeled to the fund for the upkeep of the equipment and any other needs. The model of operation seeks to enforce the employment of a permanent supervisor who will organize farmer records and liaise with markets. This seems like a winning formula, it stands to be seen in 3 years or so.