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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

FAO Director-General visits Kingdom of Swaziland

Intensified support for agriculture crucial to achieve country's development objectives

FAO Director-General meeting Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini

8 September 2015, Mbabane - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva has kicked off an official two day visit to the Kindgom of Swaziland in a series of high level discussions on increasing equitable economic national growth in the southern African nation.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Graziano da Silva affirmed FAO's commitment to intensifying its support to the country, particularly with regards to enhancing the agricultural sector's contribution to meeting the country’s Vision 2022 and goals outlined under its National Development Strategy (NDS).

Honorable Dlamini emphasized that the nutritional quality of food is of great importance to the Government. He appreciated FAO strategy on reducing poor access to nutrition through diversifying food types and application of adaptation technologies for climate smart agriculture. This he said would help the country produce more and hit the targets identified in our Swaziland Development plans.

“My visit here is an opportunity to agree on priorities for the next five years. Among them those that could be supported by FAO include, tackling nutrition adaptation to climate change and better planning of agricultural and livestock development to address water scarcity and opportunities to explore other natural resources”, Graziano da Silva explained.

And in talks with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mgwagwa Gamedze, and the Minister of Agriculture, Moses Vilakati, the FAO Director-General discussed partnership opportunities in the country. These include nutrition and school meal programmes.

“For example, buying fresh food from local farmers and providing school meals for children can impact in improving school attendance and creating a ready market for local farmers”, he said.

A track record of working together

Graziano da Silva also expressed his appreciation for the close cooperation between FAO and the Swazi government in implementing the Swaziland Agricultural Development Programme (SADP), which will conclude in December 2015.

The five-year, $19 million SADP partnership between the government, the European Union and FAO has helped improve the food security and nutrition of vulnerable communities and helped transform agriculture into a vibrant commercial sector.

For example, through an innovative investment fund, 25 agribusinesses, which use use produce from smallholder farms have been linked with new markets.

One notable success story success is Eswatini Kitchen - a small food-processing factory on the outskirts of Manzini, the business capital of Swaziland.

“Swaziland’s future is in agriculture,” according to Sonia Paiva, a businesswoman leading Eswatini Kitchen’s transformation. “If you look at it as a business, there is a lot of room for growth,” she says. After receiving a small grant from the investment fund, Eswatini Kitchen embraced a more business-minded approach to ramp up its production and profits.

Through additional support, over 20 000 smallholder farmers have learned to produce larger quantities of high-quality food and connect with new markets. In addition, construction and rehabilitation work in the livestock sector, water infrastructure and government services have also been achieved leading to the construction or rehabilitation of six earth dams across the country.

Under the programme, 800 backyard vegetable gardens have also been established for vulnerable households as well as 60 youth groups established to reach 2 250 young people with agricultural enterprise skills and knowledge.

Agriculture an engine for growth

Given that 70 percent of Swaziland's population lives in rural areas and derive its livelihoods from subsistence farming, agriculture is a major engine for growth here. However, he effects of climate change --manifested in chronic drought conditions -- have significantly constrained economic development especially for rural communities..

During his visit, Graziano da Silva will launch several new FAO technical cooperation programmes aimed at tackling these challenges.