LOCAL sugar cane farmers stand to heftily benefit from the European Union’s 19.5m Euros (about E234 m) grant which will finance sugar cane production for the next six years.

This money will not be repaid. The EU gave a grant of 54.2 million euros (about E540m) for the 2011-2013 multi annual programme of which E234m will be channelled towards sugar cane production.

Local sugar cane producers and stakeholders were on Friday called to a Swaziland Sugar Facility preparatory (SSF) meeting, where technicalities, processes and procedures were explained in detail and information on how the grant will be disbursed was disseminated.

The meeting was held at the Swaziland Water Services Corporation headquarters at Ezulwini. Different speakers from the EU and the Ministry of economic planning and development gave presentations on how the grant will work and the eligibility for funding.

SSF aims at improving the competitiveness of the sugar industry while at the same time reducing poverty in Swaziland.

The facility is designed to provide grants to sugar sector stakehholders and their development partners to improve productivity and efficiency in the sugar sector.

Principal Secretary in the ministry of economic planning and development Betram Stewart, explained that the sugar cane grant was not a loan to government that might eventually be repaid, but a grant from the EU. He urged all stakeholders to be as transparent as possible. “This money comes from the taxes of the European citizens and is contributed with their consent to the EU-Swaziland partnership for development.

On behalf of government, I urge that we continue with sound investments and transparent arrangements, not only to increase the productivity and effeciency in the sugar sector but let us ensure that the sector, becomes a driver of development to the benefit of a wider society and let us ensure that the impact of our actions will reduce poverty,” he said.

He alluded to the fact that Swaziland had competed with other sugar producing countries for AMSP funds.

“The industry will agree with me that competition ensures effeciency and the pursuit of effeciency encourages innovation. The grant modality will be demand driven and will further increase ownership of projects by placing responsibility for design, management and implementation in the hands of beneficiaries and their partners.”

Challenge
Stewart said the challenge now was to ensure that SSF does not only build on what is currently working for the industry and local communities, but to also make more innovative solutions, attractive collaborations and stronger partnerships for local and national developments.

The sugar cane projects will be implemented in Swaziland’s ‘sugar belt’ consisting of the Hhhohho, Manzini and Lubombo regions.

What SSF hopes to achieve

The SSF aims at improving the productivity and effeciency of small and medium sugar cane growers and to improve provision of social services in the sugar belt.
The facility’s expected results include increasing yields of both new and existing small and medium growers as well as the efficient use of water resources, reduced transport costs, lower input prices and other measures.

As part of integrated grant contracts, the facility also hopes that low cost interventions will support the rehabilitation of high quality education services through rehabilitation of selected school facilities.

Indicative activities which will indicate about 75% of the total available budget will include:

n Preparing land and installing irrigation systems for new entrants. The SSF will support the development of approximately 2 000 hectares of land for new small holder cane growers.

n Establishing, managing and replanting sugar cane crop
n Constructing and rehabilitating bulk irrigation schemes
n Improving logistics in the sector
n Capacity building in farming techniques, business management and cross cutting issues.

EU urges farmers to comply with procedures

The European Union urged applicants to make sure they conform to laid application procedures.
Making his presentation, EU’s Raniero Leto laid highlighted the critical considerations which must be followed by applicants.
He also urged applicants to come up with competitive proposals, because ‘if you can not write a good proposal then we doubt you can implement it’.
Sharing with prospecticve applicants the EU’s expectations, he emphasised that qualities that were looked at in proposals included the structure, logic, clarity, feasibility, realism and knowledge.

source: observer.org

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