Bambanani turns the tables with E6 million earnings
Swazi Times Jan 18, 2007

Bambanani Maliba, a Farmers’ Association (FA) based at Malibeni in north eastern Hhohho, has turned its fortunes around after grossing close to E6 million during the last harvesting season.

This is an association that started harvesting its sugar cane crop in 2003 and had, for the first three harvests, not done very well. However, the FA’s Supervisor, Nkosing’phile Mahlalela, says any farming organisation can achieve the same success if they put into practice the advice given to them by their mentors and work with diligence.

“Our only secret the last year has been completing all our operations on time and properly, be it irrigation, weeding, fertilisation, chemical spraying, etc,” explains Mahlalela.

He says just missing certain operations by a week could be to the detriment of the business in the long run. He says problems such as the crop’s growth being stunted, or yields and sucrose levels being reduced, are just some of the repercussions of not being faithful to the crop.

The supervisor says following operations properly is even more important if one wants to make profit now that the price of sugar is no longer stable.

During the last harvesting season ending in November 2006, Bambanani achieved average yields of 126 tonnes per hectare (ha) and an average of 15.59 percent sucrose content. This is a very good achievement indeed because, at the moment, for a business to be viable it should achieve at least 115 tonnes/ha at 14 percent sucrose.

Despite this, the hardworking supervisor is not satisfied because he believes they could have done better.

“We are actually not happy with the yields from a few of our fields as we had one field attaining 86 tonnes/ha and a few others at 95–96 tonnes/ha,” says Mahlalela.

He says these low performances were attributed to gaps in the first phase of the farm and the malfunctioning irrigation pumps that were a major problem the previous year.

Mahlalela, however, promises at least an average yield of about 130 tonnes/ha at 17 percent sucrose in the coming season. He says he believes this is possible because they have seen where the problems were and have made a move to correct them.

“We have already started replanting the gaps in the under-performing fields and constantly improving efficiencies all round,” he says proudly.

Mahlalela also thanked their financier, SwaziBank, which he said played a big role in enabling them to achieve the good results by financing the development of their remaining phase.

He said this made it possible to pay back the amount of E4 674 151.66, which is their instalment with interest. The FA has also been able to declare dividends to its membership and remain with some money to finance a substantial amount of the next season’s operations.

The young farmer urged all local financial institutions to continue financing other farming organisations, adding that with enough support, the sugar cane business was still viable.

Next Week: Read more about what the farmers are up to.