Growing vegetable businesses in Swaziland

Growing vegetable businesses in Swaziland

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The Southern Africa Livelihoods Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Fifteen kilometres down a dirt road in the central region of the Kingdom of Swaziland is the small village of Sigombeni.

There in Sigombeni, World Vision Australia and Australian Aid are working to ensure a vegetable group can grow their business and overcome hurdles to succeed in commericalising their farming.

Like many rural communities across the tiny mountain kingdom, poverty remains extensive and sadly the opportunities for youth in the country are still limited. In Swaziland, it’s estimated two-thirds of the population are unable to meet their basic food needs and per capita income is four times lower in rural communities than in urban areas.

Widow, Grace Dlamini, is raising seven children in Sigombeni. She recalls her motivation for beginning to grow vegetables around her home.

“When I started it was solely for consumption, but as time went on my neighbours asked that I share with them. I then increased my production to accommodate my neighbours.”

– Grace Dlamini

Growing a vegetable business in Swaziland

For Grace and a small group of other mothers in Sigombeni, the transition from growing vegetables around the home to feed the family to commercial agriculture began a few years ago with World Vision’s support. It was during this time that the Sigombeni Vegetable Group was established and the group moved cultivation from their homestead gardens to a two-hectare parcel of land given to them by the village chief.



Wendy Zwane is a member of the Sigombeni Vegetable Group who also runs her own highly productive garden alongside the group plot.

“To be in the group is very nice because we have meetings and we share ideas. But I have to be on my own to feed my family, and it's very productive because we don't go to bed hungry. We eat and we sell and the children go to school.”

– Wendy Zwane

Previous training and water challenges

Through World Vision, the group received support to learn important farming and business skills, necessary in establishing a vegetable production business. These new skills helped the Sigombeni Vegetable Group get off to a strong start as they began working together to grow their production. While the volume of cabbages, broccoli and beans was increasing, one sizeable challenge remained: lack of consistent access to ample water for their farm.

“I love planting too much. But the irrigation, it was very difficult because there was no water that side. Sometimes we can’t irrigate because there is no water and the seedlings die.”

– Wendy Zwane


Just a kilometre away from the group’s farm, a spring gurgled away as water moved slowly along a small creek. Previous attempts had been made at establishing an irrigation system but over time the pipes were destroyed, or pieces of the system were stolen. Strips of rubber from old tyre tubes were used to tie up visible leaks to keep the trickle of water reaching the group.


In steps the Southern Africa Livelihoods Program

In 2017, the Southern Africa Livelihoods Program began working with community groups across Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. Funded by World Vision Australia and Australian Aid, the project is helping groups like the Sigombeni Vegetable Group overcome challenges along the way to becoming commercially viable agriculture businesses.

For the group in Sigombeni, like a number of others across the three countries, the biggest hurdle on the path towards achieving increased vegetable production is securing sustainable access to water.

The program is responding to the group’s major challenge by investing in the construction of a small weir at the opening of the spring and running a new irrigation pipe the distance to the farm. The group understands how important the constant supply of water is and they’ve dug a kilometre-long trench so the pipe can be laid safely underground.


“The water will be of great help because irrigation will now be effortless, not be time consuming as before. Irrigation will be possible and more effective both in winter and summer.”

– Grace Dlamini

Grace and the other mothers can’t wait to start increasing their vegetable production with the assistance of the new water infrastructure from the project.

See more stories of how World Vision is growing livelihoods in Southern Africa.