Eswatini Kitchen and Beekeeping

Eswatini is among the smallest nations in mainland Africa, with an incredibly diverse climate and topography. The population predominantly consists of ethnic Swazis, as well as other groups including a small number of Zulus (The World Bank). The country’s official languages include Siswati and English and its population is approximately 1.2 million people. Traditionally, the Swazis of Eswatini practiced herding and subsistence farming. However, that is all changing with the advent of the urban formal economy.

Approximately 40% of the landlocked nation’s 1.2 million individuals live in poverty. This is to say that they earn an income of less than $1.90 per day, which is under the international poverty line. The hindrances to poverty alleviation in Eswatini include stagnating economic growth, rampant unemployment, adverse weather patterns, and staggering inequality (The World Bank). Geographically, Eswatini is surrounded by South Africa and thus depends on the nation for around 85% of its imports and 60% of its exports. Its currency is called the Eswatini lilangeni, which is pegged to the South African rand.

The country has a lower middle income status and a Gini coefficient of 51.5, which means that it has the tenth highest income inequality in the world (The World Bank). Public debt has also increased rapidly in the past 10 years, from 10% of GDP in 2009 to approximately 30% of GDP in 2019 (The World Bank). Despite the high Gini coefficient and poverty rate, Eswatini contains quite a few prospects and opportunities for small to medium enterprises.

A small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) is a business with assets, revenues, or staff that do not reach a certain level. SMEs serve as a useful indicator of innovation and economic growth in a nation. As there is not currently a globally-recognized definition of a SME, each country must individually produce its own definition. For example, in the European Union, a SME is defined as a business with a staff of less than 250. However, in Canada, a SME is a business with fewer than 500 employees (The Balance).

In Eswatini, there are quite a few newly arising prospects for SME entrepreneurs, as the government has made a considerable effort to develop and innovate the SME sector. Since the early 2000s, the government of Eswatini has implemented various programs that focus on capacity building, providing financing, and business development support (FinMark). In the National Development Strategy of Eswatini, three areas were identified as key drivers of economic growth. These include SMEs in manufacturing, services, and agriculture (FinMark).

Of the SMEs that in agriculture that drive significant economic growth, there is one that stands out due to its commendable capacity building efforts and innovative strategy. This is Eswatini Kitchen, a Fair Trade producer of natural gourmet food including chutneys, marmalades, honey, and sauces. Eswatini Kitchen was created in 1991 by a NGO called Manzini Youth Care (Eswatini Kitchen). Manzini Youth Care’s main goal was to create job opportunities for marginalized women and begin a market for local farmers and families.

The business began with just 5 women in 1 kitchen working diligently to produce high-quality products. These 5 women managed every aspect of production and created delicious products such as marmalades, sauces, atchars, and chutneys. After impressing the market with their high-quality products, Eswatini Kitchen established a connection with Fair Trade Original in Holland (Eswatini Kitchen). This connection allowed the business to gain critical training in business management, capacity building, and basic literacy. Today, Eswatini Kitchen is certified by the World Fair Trade Organization and exports its products to 15 different countries (Eswatini Kitchen). It provides a fair and sustainable income to over 300 individuals and donates all of its proceeds to over 2,000 marginalized children and young people in Eswatini.

The story of Eswatini Kitchen is certainly inspiring, but the business did not have a linear trajectory to success. In 2008, Eswatini Kitchen was overdue for a capital investment (TechnoServe). Held back by a lack of financing and an overstretched management team, the business was on very shaky financial footing. It was helped out of this precarious situation by TechnoServe, a nonprofit organization with a focus on taking a business approach to reducing poverty. TechnoServe conducted a diagnostic study that highlighted some of the weak areas of Eswatini Kitchen’s business model. It also provided a loan guarantee that allowed Eswatini Kitchen to improve operations and purchase new equipment (TechnoServe). With TechnoServe’s guidance, Eswatini Kitchen was able to join the Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa and gain access to promising international markets.

TechnoServe’s collaboration with Eswatini Kitchen serves as a great example of the newly arising prospects and opportunities for SME entrepreneurs in southern Africa. It also is a great indicator of the new opportunities in beekeeping and honey production that are starting to arise in Eswatini. The honey that Eswatini Kitchen sells is sourced from more than 200 different beekeepers (TechnoServe). Beekeeping and harvesting require approximately 60 hours of work a year but can provide an income of over $5,000.

One individual who has benefited from TechnoServe’s collaboration with Eswatini Kitchen is Percy Shongwe, a 17-year-old who uses the money he earns from beekeeping to pay school fees. Percy took a TechnoServe seminar and that began his dive into beekeeping and harvesting (TechnoServe). Earning more than $7,000 through beekeeping, Percy was able to help his struggling mother by paying school fees for himself and his siblings.

Percy’s story is not unique-there are hundreds of others who have also benefited from the newly developing industry of beekeeping in southern Africa. SME entrepreneurs have a lot to explore when it comes to the thriving honey industry in Eswatini. The collaboration between TechnoServe and Eswatini Kitchen serves as a reminder of the benefits of the engagement of local entrepreneurs in development. Through exploring new opportunities in beekeeping and harvesting in southern Africa, many entrepreneurs may find the inspiration and industry that can help them thrive.

Bibliography
“Eswatini MAP SME Diagnostic 2018 Report.” FinMark Trust, 21 Nov. 2019, finmark.org.za/eswatini-map-sme-diagnostic-2018-report/.

“Honey Industry Offers Swaziland a Sweet Future.” TechnoServe, TechnoServe, 10 July 2020, www.technoserve.org/blog/honey-industry-offers-swaziland-a-sweet-future/.

“Making a World of Difference through Swazi Gourmet Food.” Eswatini Kitchen, www.eswatinikitchen.co.sz/aboutstory.asp.
Ward, Susan. What Are SMEs?, The Balance, 29 June 2020, www.thebalancesmb.com/sme-small-to-medium-enterprise-definition-2947962.

“The World Bank in Eswatini.” World Bank, 10 Oct. 2019, www.worldbank.org/en/country/eswatini/overview.

Women package a unique Fire Sauce in Manzini, the business center of Eswatini
http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/241650/icode/

iamayeenm

Mayeen Mohammedi is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in The Gambia, West Africa from 2017-2019. She is currently studying to become an international human rights lawyer with the University of London’s Master of Laws program. Her interests lie at the intersection of religion, politics, and human rights and she aspires to one day prosecute international war criminals and human rights violators at the International Criminal Court.

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