MTN Eswatini, Swaziland Empowerment Limited (SEL), and the National Agricultural Board (NAMBoard) have handed over three horticulture tunnels and a mini-pack house to Lundzi Youth Farmers.
The project was started last July under the MTN 21 Days of Y’ello Care banner and it costed about E1.2 million in total. The group of 18 young farmers has already planted 840 tomato plants in the first tunnel, 840 green pepper plants in the second tunnel, and 840 yellow pepper plants in the third tunnel. They are expecting to make at least E210 000 from all three tunnels.
This will be their second harvest after making close to E40 000 from their initial harvest of 5.73 tons of tomatoes. This was a 70 percent achievement as they were targeting 7.5 tons. Since they were still learning the system during their first harvest, they are expecting their yields to shoot up now that they have mastered it.
They also have a mini-pack house on site that can take up to 3.5 tons of produce or 60 crates. NAMBoard has committed to continue working with the youth for two years to safeguard the projects’ sustainability.
Representing the young farmers, Sandile Dlamini said they do not have enough words to express their gratitude to MTN, SEL, and NAMBoard for the project that has already changed their lives, as it remains their only source of income.
“From the first harvest, we were able to open bank accounts, buy protective clothing, and shared E16 000 as profit. We saved the rest of the money and we have later used it for planting,” he said.
They are currently selling their produce to NAMBoard and they will be packaging it onsite to get the best price in the market. They sell the produce that do not meet the NAMBoard market standards within their community. They are also considering adding three more tunnels.
The handover event was attended by Minister of Agriculture Jabulani Mabuza, MTN Chief Executive Officer Wandile Mtshali, SEL Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Chairman Shaka Ndlangamandla, NAMBoard Chief Executive Officer Siphephiso Dlamini, Manzini Region Senior Regional Officer, and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and NAMBoard.
Minister of Agriculture Jabulani Mabuza dearly thanked MTN, SEL, and NAMBoard for investing in these young people.
“This project is aligned to the intended results of the Strategic Roadmap that His Majesty’s Government adopted. The Roadmap regards Agriculture as a major pillar to propel the country’s economy into a better space,” he said.
He asked the youth to put their best foot forward so that their project could be a model for other young people in other areas.
“I encourage you to be a beacon of hope that there is a space for youth in agriculture,” he said.
MTN Chief Executive Officer Wandile Mtshali said the company invested in the project because they saw that it meets the needs of young people at Lundzi.
“From our interaction with these young people, we believe they have grown in this trade, and they can run with this project with minimal support from MTN,” he said.
NAMBoard CEO Siphephiso Dlamini said what they have seen at Lundzi is excellence that needs to be replicated in other areas.
“We have learned a lot from this partnership and have seen that technology excites the youth,” he said.
SEL CSR Chairman Shaka Ndlangamandla said that by investing in the project, they are expecting these young people to be a catalyst for change in their community.
Manzini Senior Regional Officer Gcina Dlamini pleaded with the young people to take care of the project.
Lundzi Chief Mancibane thanked MTN, SEL, and NAMBoard for creating opportunities for these young people.
“We do not have enough words to thank MTN, SEL, and NAMBoard for what they have done for our youth,” he said.