Climate Smart Youth Farmers Equipped for Improved Production

Youth programme continues to support unemployed youth to gain skills for livelihoods

June 6, 2024

Ncobile Fakudze' grows Cayenne Pepper in her 7-hectare drip irrigated field.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

Youth farmers across Eswatini’s four regions have received climate-smart agriculture equipment valued at over E450 000 to help them improve food production while enhancing their livelihoods. This equipment, including drip irrigation and water storage facilities, is aimed at bolstering production and fortifying livelihoods, particularly crucial in Eswatini's susceptibility to climate-induced challenges such as drought.

The equipment distribution comes on the heels of a two-day training session held last November for 104 young farmers aged 18 to 35 – 62 women and 42 men. The training covered various CSA techniques, including permaculture, conservation agriculture, climate-smart irrigation methods, and protected production. The National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard) facilitated the training, which included raising awareness among farmers about the Eswatini Horticulture Information System (EHIS). This digital platform offers essential market data regarding horticulture production, processing, and crop availability to various stakeholders such as farmers, buyers, input suppliers, marketers, retailers, and researchers.

UNDP Acting Resident Representative, Gita Welch, and NAMBoard CEO, Bhekizwe Maziya, pose with the farmers.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

The participants benefitted through a partnership between the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the "Empowering Youth and Women with Green Skills for Accelerating NDC Implementation for Eswatini" project. This partnership extends from the Climate Smart Market Oriented Agriculture project, which previously assisted two farming schemes in the Hhohho and Manzini regions. These efforts aimed to enhance production and facilitate market access for improved income generation.

This initiative was prompted by a 2022 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations CSA Report, which highlighted a sluggish adoption of CSA practices across 10 SADC countries, including Eswatini.

Fundile Tembe speaking on behalf of the youth farmers.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

NAMBoard has installed drip irrigation systems in select farmers' fields, preparing for distribution to all project participants. Fundile Tembe, 23, from Mahlanya in the Manzini Region, spoke on behalf of recipients, highlighting how training and drip irrigation equipment have enhanced and diversified her production.

“I used to produce green pepper only but because of the drip irrigation system I also produce legumes and butternut,” said Tembe. “The training also exposed me to EHIS which has enhanced my access to the market.”

Echoing these sentiments, Caleb Mamba from Ntshanini in the Shiselweni Region emphasized how CSA training empowered him with invaluable practices to safeguard crops, especially against adverse weather like the recent hailstorm that inflicted damage in their fields. He is now aware of tunnel farming which is an opportunity he’d like to explore. 

NAMBoard CEO, Bhekizwe Maziya, and UNDP Acting Resident Representative, Gita Welch.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

Namboard CEO, Bhekizwe Maziya, and UNDP Acting Resident Representative, Gita Welch, presided over the handover ceremony. Maziya highlighted that the equipment would span 20 hectares throughout the kingdom, projecting a substantial boost to horticulture production and the economic prospects of young farmers.

“Farming equipment is one of the major costs in farming, which is not affordable to most farmers, especially the youth. Therefore, the contribution of such to the youth by the programme will go a long way in stimulating production,” he said. 

In response, Welch extended congratulations to NAMBoard and the young farmers for the remarkable outcomes of their training and the evident impact of the drip irrigation system for those who have implemented it. She underscored the critical role of partnerships between the United Nations, government, public institutions, civil society organizations, and farmers in achieving sustainable agricultural development. 

“If we cannot show concrete results, then the UN in Eswatini is nothing. So, this is what makes us as the UN; your work, dedication and commitment that makes us who we are,” she said.  

They proceeded to tour a seven-hectare field where Ncobile Fakudze is cultivating cayenne pepper using the drip irrigation system, which she supplies to NAMBoard. Fakudze highlighted that the system has not only enhanced water efficiency but also significantly decreased the labour required for the irrigation of the seven-hectare field.