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Livelihood linkages with legumes

The CSARL project has facilitated market linkages along several value chains, alongside private sector actors. This article looks at what goes into promoting sustainable farming and creating lasting partnerships to ensure the sustainability of these connections now that it’s time for the project to move on.

Promoting sustainable value chain development and strengthening market access for rural people are key components of the Resilient Food Systems (RFS) Eswatini project, Climate-Smart Agriculture for Climate-Resilient Livelihoods (CSARL).

The project, which is set to complete in March 2023, made great strides towards its objectives of enhancing food and nutrition security, and promoting livelihoods through diversified, climate-resilient agricultural production practices and market linkages. In 2019, we saw this in the form of an indigenous chicken value chain, and now the project is sharing another success story relating to a staple food that packs a lot of nutritional punch: legumes.

RFS Eswatini is closely linked with the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Smallholder Market-Led Programme, an approach highly centred on market linkages and livelihood diversification, and is implemented by the Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE). These partnerships, and many more on the ground, support the investigation and development of existing but untapped markets in the project areas. Legume farming, for example, was already a common activity but, as farmer Joseph Mabaso shared in an interview, there were a lot of challenges in the existing system.

“Before ESWADE came, I was growing beans whereby you could find that I produce five bags (about 250kg), but ended up being paid for only three bags. People used to take my beans on credit but ended up not paying.” - Joseph Mabaso, Farmer

The project entered Joseph’s community in partnership with the National Maize Co-Operation (NMC) who, like ESWADE, is a government parastatal under the Ministry of Agriculture. NMC offers improved, sustainable practices to minimise waste, increase yields and promote good land and water practices to increase the resilience of farms to climate change and shocks. In addition, fertilisers and seeds were provided to beneficiaries to get them started. Since his participation, Joseph has earned enough to hire a tractor for his farm and proudly produced 21 bags (1050kg) of legumes in one growing season.

“ESWADE supports the farmers with production techniques to make sure that they comply with the quality and standards that are required by formal markets,” shared Robert Mabundza, Sustainable Agriculture Manager for ESWADE. “The farmers are monitored by Extension Officers who nurture them throughout the period until their crop is ready for harvest and sale.”

NMC Development Officer, Zakhele Nkonyane, explained that in his role, he travels to communities to conduct quality checks, buy produce on behalf of NMC, and offer transport for farmers to get their beans into the market. The main quality concern is moisture content, which will likely spoil the beans in storage if it is above a threshold of 14%, but so long as it’s below, NMC will pay SZL21.00 (about 1.24 USD) per kilogram.

“It is a great success because its market price is really good and that makes me happy,” said Isaac Dlamini, a bean farmer who has benefitted from the programme. There is also no cap on how much NMC will buy back from farmers, meaning that, with support from ESWADE and their own determination, sustainable bean farming has become quite a lucrative enterprise.

“Before this project, I was a maize farmer, planting maize and vegetables. I then joined the ESWADE project last year. It really benefitted me because I was able to get fertilizer, so I can plant and increase my production and productivity as you saw that my barns are full.” - Isaac Dlamini, Farmer

Sustainability of project activities has been etched into the design of all RFS activities, and this is none better exemplified than through the legume market linkages established through this initiative. Because the market for nutritious beans isn’t going anywhere, this mutually beneficial partnership between NMC and smallholder farmers will ensure that businesses at multiple scales can thrive.

Now that CSARL is ending project interventions under RFS, they can move forward with new sights set, trusting that the RFS Eswatini beneficiaries will reap the benefits of the project well into the future.

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