Swaziland government sells maize donated by Japan and banks the cash
guardian.co.uk -- Mar 21
Swaziland's government has sold maize donated by the Japanese government to feed hungry Swazis for $3m and deposited the money in the Central Bank of Swaziland.
The nearly 12,000 tonnes of donated maize was sold by the ministry of economic planning and development in 2011, but the sale was not made public until an item about the transaction appeared in a performance report the ministry presented to the Swaziland parliament for review last week.
Swaziland has not produced enough food to feed itself since the 1970s. It depends on international food aid to bridge a gap that varies from year to year, ranging from two-thirds of the country's 1.2 million people in 2007 to about one-tenth of the population this year, after a better than average rainfall, according to the World Food Programme.
The majority of Swazis reside on communal Swazi nation land, under the authority of chiefs appointed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Lacking title deeds to their ancestral farms, they are unable to secure bank loans to invest in irrigation equipment or farming machinery, relying instead on rainfall to water their crops. However, Swaziland's climate is becoming increasingly arid and agricultural inputs are growing increasingly unaffordable.
Bertram Stewart, the ministry of economic planning and development's principal secretary, acknowledged the sale of the food aid to Swazi media, and said it was not the first time this had been done.
According to Stewart, the Japanese government was informed that the maize donation would be sold and that the money would be used to buy farming inputs for subsistence farmers, but the Japanese government has yet to confirm this. Government-funded farming inputs were scaled back during the last cropping season, with the ministry of agriculture citing a lack of funds.
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