By Nokunceda Magagula
Sonia Paivia has said that the Women Farmer program is made to close the gap of unemployment in Eswatini and women can make means of living through farming. The Women Framer Foundation founder and Executive director made her remarks at the Women Farmer of the Year Competition 2023 held at Sidvokodvo Riders Range.
The prestigious event was graced by the new Minister of Agriculture Mandla Tshwake, Minister of Labour and Security Phila Buthelezi, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Apollo Maphalala, and Minister of Health Mduduzi Matsebula. The founder first welcomed the new Minister of Agriculture. “Minister, we welcome you, this is an exciting ministry, yet not easy to handle, however the voices from the youth and emaSwati will assist you,” Pavia said.
Paiva said this occasion fills her with great pride to be in the company of exceptional women and youth farmers from all over the country who contribute towards the economy of the country through agriculture turning the tide against poverty and increasing entrepreneurship. She highlighted that this day belongs to the 285 excellent women and youth farmers who have ventured into the farming community which has been perceived as aging since there are a few youth entrants that have ventured into agriculture.
Paiva said this year they are thrilled to see a massive increase of youth participation in the competition, from 38 participants in 2022 to 111 entrants this year, “this encourages me, in that the work that the Woman Farmer Foundation is doing, is seen, heard, and appreciated our country has a youthful population, and the unemployment of youth is currently at 58.2%” Paiva stated. However, this is a catastrophe, and the responsibility of each one to close the gap.
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She said in her humble opinion the development of youth in precision agriculture and skills development should be at the forefront of the ministry’s discussions. “I look forward to agriculture being the largest employer creator in the country and proudly led by emaSwati,” Paiva said. The message that the Women Woman Farmer Foundation spread is “nothing is impossible” and the dedication to massage is evident.
Shifting focus to the competitors Paiva said these marvelous women and youth top ten best farmers have displayed an extraordinary ability to adapt to the many challenges faced by women and youth in the agricultural sector. She said they have demonstrated innovation and creativity in improving the productivity of their enterprises.
“Our goal is to ensure the competition winners pay it forward within their communities by mentoring other women and youth, and this is measured by the success of their mentors,” she said. She conveyed gratitude to the sponsors, the existing ones and the new ones, stating that it is through them that this event is possible.
To the judges of the competition, she acknowledged the hardships of the job, “I know it’s not easy to be out for a few weeks dedicating long hours to meet every single one of the farmers” she said. To staff members, she expressed gratitude for they have worked hard throughout the year to ensure that this competition continues to be a success.