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Shortfall of 1 500ha required for development

Business Section

By Teetee Zwane - SWAZI OBSERVER-31-Jul-2009

THE country has a shortfall of 1 526 hectares required for development under the European Commission’s support programme for smallholder sugar cane growers.

RDMU Consulting Agronomist Sibusiso Malaza said Swaziland has to put more effort in the development projects if it was to see the EC funds committed by December 2010 as per procedures of the 2007-2010 Multi-Annual Indicative Programme. The programme is supporting four pillars; reducing development costs for smallholder sugarcane growers (2007); improvement of transport infrastructure (bridges, roads) (2008); financing some elements of the industry’s social services (2009); and diversification programmes (2010). Malaza said the EC has made available a total budget of €10.8 million (approximately E118.8 million) at €5 000/ha (about E55 000/ha), which equals 2 160 hectares required for irrigation development.

“A contract is soon to be awarded to eight farmer associations covering 630 hectares to be developed under the Komati Downstream Development Programme (KDDP) and Lower Usutu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP) for round 1,” he said, adding that the total estimated cost of this development would be about E35 million. He said the last tender for development would probably be launched in March 2010 to give allowance for all the processes involved to be carried out on time, these including submission of proposals by contractors, adjudication to allow for selected contractor to mobilise equipment, etc. Malaza said the country still faced challenges with regard to meeting the EC’s set timelines, which he said cannot be changed. He said factors that contributed to slow progress of project implementation included problems in getting final detailed designs for projects earmarked for development.

“We’re short of engineering skills in Swaziland and have to import these. Other problems are land disputes which lead to delays while the viability of some farmer associations is also questionable and we end up with high development and operational costs,” added the consultant. “Delivery is very slow and the RDMU is investigating and identifying new ways of speeding up the service delivery process. There is close engagement with the beneficiaries

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