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MBABANE – A survey on the country’s agricultural activity has so far cost government E44 million, but more money will be spent on this exercise.
Critics to this survey, which is conducted by the Central Statistics Department of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, said it was bound to fail because Eswatini has not yet implemented the 2003 Maputo Declaration.

According to the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food, governments pledged to devote 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture development.
At the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, African Heads of State and Governments endorsed the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.

The Declaration contained several important decisions regarding agriculture, but prominent among them was the commitment to the allocation of at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years. That Declaration should have been implemented in July 2009.

If the Maputo Declaration was implemented, the budget for the country’s agriculture should have been E2.41 billion. However, government allocated E1.6 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure adequate service delivery for crops and livestock. The total budget for the country stands at E24.1 billion.
The Times SUNDAY can reveal that a sum of E12.92 million is currently needed to continue financing the Eswatini Agricultural Survey for this financial year. In fact, the estimated total budget for this project is E93.32 million.

It is understood that government projected that a sum of E57 million would have been exhausted by March 31, 2021. This figure is derived from the actual expenditure for the survey as at March 31, 2019, which totals to E44 million and the E12.9 million that the Central Statistics Department was expected to use in this financial year.
concerns over huge budget

Sources close to the matter said the budget for the survey seemed too much because data could, perhaps, be readily available in key organisations that represent the interest of farmers in the private sector. The concerned sources mentioned that the private sector collected information on what they had produced and sold, wondering how the taxpayer could finance an exercise at a total estimated cost of E93.32 million when government failed to make agriculture a priority in terms of the Maputo Declaration.

They also argued that the outcome of the survey would gather dust as long as there was no effort to make the document (declaration) functional.
Bheki Bhembe, the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the organisations that represented the interests of farmers fell short of the main objective of the survey.
He said they only showed what had been sold, yet the interest of the ministry was in production.

This publication has asked him why they went out to spend so much money when public enterprises and private interest groups could have such information.
The public enterprises and private interest groups include National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBORD), National Maize Corporation (NMC), Eswatini Dairy Board, Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE), the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Eswatini Sugar Association, Eswatini Cotton Board, Eswatini Farmers Union, Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Eswatini (UNESWA), Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Eswatini Citrus Board.
The PS responded: “They only show what has been sold yet our interest is on what has been produced.”
SNAT leader backs govt but...

Sikelela Dlamini, a farmer and current Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), said such surveys were crucial and scientific in the sense that they informed policymakers of what was happening on the ground as Eswatini remains an agrarian society.
However, Dlamini said such data collection surveys would surely go to waste if the country lacked programmes to implement them. He suggested that the benefit should be commensurate with the cost of the research.

“Unless and until we have clear programmes on how to implement the surveys, we can call upon government to stop them, but I want to make it clear that they are very important because they are scientific and informative,” said Dlamini.
He said agriculture was an important sector to all emaSwati living in rural and urban areas. The secretary general said liSwati would never be divorced from farming. “I’m also a serious farmer. I’m looking for a farm because I want to scale up my farming,” he said.
He said his land produced 50 bags of maize in the previous farming season, and 80 bags of maize in this current season. “You can then tell that all of us, even those who live in the urban area, depend on agriculture,” he said.

Bongani Masuku, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the Maputo Declaration and Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agriculture and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods spoke to the things they, as a ministry, were also talking about.
It must be said that at the African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014, Heads of State and Government adopted a remarkable set of concrete agriculture goals to be attained by 2025.

The Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared
Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods is a set of new goals showing a more targeted approach to achieve the agricultural vision for the continent, which is shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.
The Malabo Summit reconfirmed that agriculture should remain high on the development agenda of the continent, and is a critical policy initiative for African economic growth and poverty reduction.

Meanwhile, the PS explained that there were programmes in place to implement those declarations but there were challenges caused by inadequate resources.
Masuku said water development and dam construction were some of the programmes that the ministry put in place to ensure agricultural growth and transformation.

He pointed to the fact that agriculture would remain a wish if there was no water. “There’s no agriculture without water,” he said.
Masuku said climate change had an adverse effect on farming. He said the extension services for the ministry haven’t been effective and stronger as they used to be.
It was noted during our investigation that the Central Statistics Department’s information available on the government website is now outdated. It elaborates on Eswatini Nation Land surveys for 2009/2010 as if they are still ongoing.

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