MTN Eswatini, Swaziland Empowerment Limited (SEL), and Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprises (ESWADE) have joined forces to launch a tunnel farming project for young people from Maphilingo and Ntsabankhulu in Siphofaneni.
About 40 young people will benefit from this project: 20 youth from Maphilingo and 20 from Ntsabankhulu. These are young people from families relocated during the construction of the Lubovane Dam. Each group of 20 was allocated two tunnels and they are now well poised to make profits worth at least E15 000 per farming cycle per group.
MTN invested E232 000 into this project, SEL provided E125 000, and ESWADE’s role is to provide technical support. Amongst other key activities, ESWADE is expected to provide field training, and ensure constant water supply in the tunnels.
Through the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard), the youth has already secured a sustainable market for their produce. Once their produce is ready for sale, NAMBoard will collect it in readiness to send to relevant markets.
Minister of Agriculture, Jabulani Mabuza, launched this empowerment project last week Friday alongside MTN Chief Executive Officer Wandile Mtshali, SEL Corporate Social Responsibility Chairman Shaka Ndlangamandla, and ESWADE Chief Executive Officer Samson Sithole. Minister Mabuza planted the first tomato plants in the tunnels to mark the official launch of the project.
The minister commended MTN, SEL, and ESWADE for joining forces, and engaging young people in agriculture.
“We need more of such partnerships to turn the economy around and to provide opportunities for our young people,” he remarked.
He also pleaded with the youth to pull all stops to make the project a success, saying “If you do it with your heart, you will prosper.”
Mabuza said it was high time for young people to put their hands on deck and help the country to cut the importation of agricultural produce and reduce capital outflow.
MTN Chief Executive Officer Wandile Mtshali said although the company has not been able to implement its annual flagship Corporate Social Investment (CSI) program known as the 21 Days of Y’ello Care in the past two years, they have refused to stand back and not support young people.
“Against all odds, MTN Eswatini, alongside ESWADE, Ministry of Agriculture, and SEL is happy to deliver this innovative agricultural project which will be run by young people, and whose capacity will be enhanced,” he said.
He further disclosed that the company, alongside these partners, will deliver other sustainable projects to benefit more young people and broader communities.
SEL CSR Chairman Shaka Ndlangamandla said they were also happy to be part of this partnership to empower young people because they believe that the aspirations and achievements of young people will shape the future.
The youth representative Bongiwe Gwebu dearly thanked the partners for supporting them, “We will make sure that the project succeeds.”
MTN in partnership with SEL and NAMBoard recently implemented almost a similar innovative agricultural project valued slightly over E1.2 million at Lundzi, wherein the youth have started enjoying its dividends.