The Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE) will soon be breaking the charts on Eswatini’s businesses. This institution was established by the Government of Eswatini (GoE) to facilitate the planning and implementation of large water and agricultural development projects. They include the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP), and the Komati Downstream Development Project (KDDP). The GoE established ESWADE to reduce poverty and widening income inequalities in Eswatini.
The Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre undertook a study to determine ESWADE’s effectiveness and its impact on agricultural development projects in Eswatini. Particularly the agency’s economic value in agricultural extension services.
The findings demonstrate that ESWADE is currently providing a growing social and economic utility for the population residing in the project areas through stimulating agricultural activity. Hence, Eswatini through ESWADE has been able to increase the total land area under cultivation, which in turn has contributed to growth in agricultural production.
Against an in investment of E4.6 billion, ESWADE’s return on investment amounts to 3.7 billion. When comparing the income generated in the first 7 years of KDDP and the first 7 years of LUSIP, the results signify about a 260% increase in the revenue generation capacity of the projects per year.
Given that ESWADE projects have made a positive contribution to the economy it is anticipated that the institution will fully recover the funds invested by the GoE. The study states that in 2017, the average economic benefit the country received per annum was about E232 million. Investments have increased at a rapid rate as ESWADE expands to other project areas.
Although ESWADE has done impressive work in agricultural development, disputes amongst smallholder farmers have led to the burning down of agricultural investment like sugarcane fields. Some fields have been left idle which leads to the complete abandonment of agricultural development projects in those areas. It was noted that the aforementioned issues have a negative impact on ESWADE’s work. They further compromise the realization of rural economic development and have a greater impact on the Economy of Eswatini.
Due to ESWADE’s effort, smallholder producers presently contribute about E422 million to Eswatini’s GDP. This was in part due to the positioning of smallholders at the forefront of agricultural production, as per the aspirations of the revised NDS, PRSAP, CASP, and NFSP. It is also projected that the strategy will continue to ensure an increase in productivity.
Hence, at the very least, the results show that Eswatini’s poverty reduction strategy and agricultural policies are beginning to demonstrate some aspects of the expected dividends. The economic benefits go beyond mere income. They are far-reaching they include other indirect benefits of agricultural development projects, for instance, Eswatini is expected to increase food exports and decrease food imports.
To put it briefly, the study gathered that agricultural development projects in Eswatini have the potential to empower thousands of rural dwellers to escape poverty. Through the provision of intrinsic benefits such as lower food prices, fresh food, improvement in health, and spin off developments in nearby areas.