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MBABANE – Following that the Eswatini cattle population, both beef and dairy, have dropped below levels of self-regeneration, countries free of foot and mouth disease have been urged to allow Eswatini access to import.

The plea was made by Minister of Agriculture Mandla Tshawuka during the session of transformation of agri-food systems, held on the sidelines of the FAO 33rd Africa Conference and Moroccan International Trade Fair, last week. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) meeting started on Thursday and was closed on Saturday. The minister was attending this meetings along with his counterpart in Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Jane Simelane the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture Sydney Simelane. He first told the meeting that climate change for Eswatini was real, as indicated by the fact that this year, for instance, crops were decimated by a combination of drought and hailstorms, hence the country was going to need international assistance to deal with this and future climate change related challenges.

The minister then spoke about the transformation of Eswatini’s agri-food systems, where he mentioned four pillars:
* Building of dams to transform the country’s farming systems from being predominantly rain fed to rely more on irrigation.
* Climate smart agriculture such as protected farming to safeguard high value crops.
* Value addition involving agri-processing, development of value chains, developing high return markets, research and development and finance.
* Development of climate change resilience especially among vulnerable communities. He mentioned that Eswatini had submitted two concept notes to FAO requesting for funding in this regard, which he enumerated and said that he hoped they would be considered favourably.

Tshawuka also spoke on the discussion of the ‘blue economy’ or aquatic food systems where, after he paid homage to Morocco and FAO for staging the conference and told the meeting that His Majesty King Mswati III commissioned the new government to end hunger and poverty within the shortest time possible.


The minister also highlighted that Africa had 21 countries without coastlines, hence no direct access to the ocean, Eswatini being one of them. He, therefore, asked the meeting and those countries with coastlines to find a way for the landlocked countries to participate in this economy or food system. He asked FAO to assist Eswatini develop its fisheries and aquatic food system as part of a programme they had just showcased in that session. The minister further requested those countries with coastlines to combat unused and uncontrolled fishing, over-fishing and bycatch, because if not, there would be nothing on the menu by the time some of the landlocked countries get a seat at the table.

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