Collaboration between the youth and experienced farmers can give birth to innovative methods of ensuring sustainable agricultural production, says Sibongiseni Nkosinathi Dlamini.

“There is need for the creation of a platform where experienced farmers can teach the youth about the latest agricultural produce which will enable them to have high yields,” said Sibongiseni from Entandweni High School situated in Sikhuphe area. The young man was presenting an essay during the ‘Innovation and Technology in the Financial Sector’ workshop hosted by First National Bank at the Swaziland Economic Conference 2017 held at the Royal Swazi Spa Convention Centre on October 26.

Sibongiseni is one of the finalists in an essay writing competition that was run by the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) in partnership with FNB Swaziland, where students were required to submit entries under two categories; rural development or financial inclusion under the theme ‘Rural Economic Development in Swaziland: Opportunities for the Future’.

He said such efforts should be paired with investments from government channelled towards the youth. Sibongiseni however cautioned that the requirements for youth to invest as a group are challenging, seeing as it is at times difficult to find a person who matches their passion.

He said it was in this regard that he suggests that every individual who is at the very least eligible, should get a loan enabling them to live their dreams. “This is because they (the youth) have proven that they are hard workers as evidenced through the energy they have been using in growing dagga,” he said.

Sibongiseni further highlighted the need for subsidised farming inputs, “one of the deterrents to entry into the agricultural sector for the youth is the pricey inputs. When you go to veterinary supplies or trading stores to buy medication for livestock, you find that the costs are usually higher than the income that one expects”.

He decried the level of ignorance in the sourcing of funds for agricultural ventures. “Most of the youth are willing to start agricultural enterprises and have the potential to start new ones. However, you find that they don’t know how to go about sourcing funding.”
Posing a question to his peers, Sibongiseni demonstrated how none of them are aware of how to go about sourcing funding.

“The process of acquiring funds is cumbersome, it is tiring. A youthful person would prefer to engage in an enterprise that takes a very short time to bring him profits because that is all he is interested in,” he said, adding how growing dagga becomes more attractive to the youth who seek fast gratification.

Expressing disappointment about the low prices farmers are expected to sell their produce for, he said the youth would be shocked by revelations such as the price at which Swaziland Diary Board buys milk from farmers; “The dairy board is buying a litre of milk for E6; yes in 2017.”

He said such is discouraging to farmers who are willing to engage in this type of farming and then finding that they are unable to make profits. “Even with NAMBoard, you find that the prices at which the entity buys vegetables from farmers is very low,” he said.

Sibongiseni said such hardships lead to those who acquire loans for their agricultural enterprises being unable to service them. After being confounded by low prices at the markets and failure to service loans, he said farmers are further affected by unpredictable weather phenomenon, which reduces their chances of realising proper harvests.

“Look at how the weather was yesterday (Wednesday),” he said, further noting how extremities in weather conditions worsened the economic prospects of farmers. Some of the solutions he recommended include studies on genetically modified foods.