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Climate Smart, Market led fruit and vegetable production

Farmers buying tomatoes at a NAMBoard Market in Swaziland. (Photo:© FAO/Believe Nyakudjara)

19 December, Swaziland - Ndabenhle Simelane is a hardworking farmer who lives with his two wives and ten children in the Manzini region of Swaziland. He breeds chickens and plants crops on this plot of land that he inherited from his Father. Today he is welcoming Mazwi Dlamini, an agricultural extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture who is on a routine visit to monitor the progress of Ndabenhle’s crops as well as assess his needs.

Ndabenhle is a recent beneficiary of the Household Climate Smart, Market-Led Fruit and Vegetable Production project. Under this pilot program, the farmers are encouraged to plant fruit trees together with their crops and vegetables. Ndabenhle’s garden is still in its infancy, and his trees are less than a year old. His hope is that within a few years, his field will flourish in full maturity.

“I received 78 trees, to my place here there was space for planting, so I added six to make 84. I am planting maize, litchi, cowpeas and pumpkin. I have a dream if these litchis can grow and produce some fruit I will sell them to NAMBoarD and Manzini Market to add some income to feed my family,” said Ndabenhle Simelane.

Swaziland, like all the other countries in Southern Africa, has suffered successive droughts for few years, the current one having been induced by the El-Nino phenomenon.

According to Ndumiso Masimula, an agriculture expert with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), supporting farmers in the production of fruit trees together with vegetables is very advantageous especially during the dry seasons.

“Trees, in general, can stand better the dry conditions compared to maize and other field crops. They can stay longer without irrigation. We are trying to make sure that farmers have food even during dry seasons, and with these fruit trees at least we are confident that farmers will harvest something at the end of the day.”

This robust horticulture program is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with FAO and the National Agricultural Marketing Board of Swaziland (NAMBoard). Demonstration plots were planted at NAMBoard so that farmers like Ndabenhle can see the results of a field with mature fruit trees planted together with vegetables.

The main aim of this project is to achieve food security as well as increase the nutritional status of households who would otherwise not have had access to a balanced diet due to low fruit production in Swaziland. 

Mazwi Dlamini a government Extension Officer says, “we mainly rely on imports when it comes to fruit and vegetables, mostly imports from South Africa. You find that a household can go for a month without a fruit to eat. That’s how this project came about.”

Being able to harvest during drought as well as getting proper nutrition are just some of the reasons this project was started. Poverty reduction was the primary emphasis, and this is being done by linking farmers to strong markets.

Thanks to the project, farmers like Ndabenhle, can now not only ensure a balanced diet for their families but they can also sell their produce at ready-made markets and generate income as well.

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