University of Eswatini Signs Memorandum of Understanding With Woman Farmer Foundation

University of Eswatini and WFF Management, and members of staff from the Faculty of Agriculture posing for a group photo after the signing. 

LUYENGO – On Tuesday, 31st May 2022, the University of Eswatini signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Woman Farmer Foundation (WFF) at the Cardiff Hall, Luyengo Campus. The collaborating Departments within the University would be Horticulture and Crop Production for the start with the other departments brought in as the collaboration continues.  The WFF was represented by the Managing Director, Mrs Sonia Paiva, who was accompanied by Eswatini Kitchen Director, Mr. Carlos Paiva.

In his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor, University of Eswatini, Prof. Justice Thwala welcomed all guests at the signing ceremony of the MoU between UNESWA and WFF initiated through the Faculty of Agriculture and the Faculty of Consumer Sciences.  Prof. Thwala thanked Mrs Sonia Paiva for her vision and role in making deliberate efforts to break all the stereotypes on the role of women in society and promote the role of women in the agricultural sector and in improving food security.  “You have promoted the Eswatini girl farmer through the Woman Farmer Foundation nationally, regionally and internationally through initiatives such as the Woman Farmer of the Year Competition” Prof. Thwala mentioned.

The Vice Chancellor then commended the Horticulture and Crop Production Departments as well as Food Science, Nutrition and Technology Department for the relationship they have sustained with WFF and Eswatini Kitchen. Prof. Thwala mentioned how WFF has been a faithful promoter of products of the two Faculties.  He revealed that the signing of the MoU has been a work in progress since 2021. He noted that WFF has been in consultation with Horticulture Department in formulating the course content for the on-going Technological Tunnel Production Programme, which offers entrepreneurial opportunities to women and youth in Eswatini.  “UNESWA also recognises the state of the art facilities (fruit orchard, technology tunnel production units and the Eswatini Kitchen factory, which plays a major positive role in grooming the aspiring UNESWA students through periodic internships and mentorship as well as provide permanent employment upon graduation”,  said the VC. He then thanked Mr Carlos Paiva for the role played by Eswatini Kitchen to UNESWA Consumer Science students.

In her partnership remarks, Mrs Sonia Paiva mentioned that WFF was formed 14 years ago through her passion to develop women and girls in the agricultural sector. She wanted women not to practise agriculture only for subsistence farming but also for income generation.  She started the programme with 90 women but over the years, 3,000 women have gone through the programme.  She assisted the women to move from subsistence to semi-commercial level.  This movement looks difficult but it is achievable, she stated.  Five years ago she started focusing on the youth.  She has learnt that their thought process is different to that of the women.  The youth are highly mobile and want money.  She felt it was time to introduce the youth into the organisation. She started the process of smart technology a year ago with assistance from the United Nations offices in Eswatini.  She had anticipated a 30% drop out rate but the project went well.  WFF unlocked the minds of the youth to climate smart techniques and decided to engage the University to ensure the sustainability of the project.  She mentioned that WFF was very selective on who to partner with as they wanted solid partners.  She expressed her gratification in signing the MoU with the University of Eswatini as it would greatly improve the work they were doing.  She mentioned that it was a privilege to work with the University as it would narrow gaps that exist and not actually close them but to expose the youth to money and entrepreneurship. She mentioned that WFF was excellent in entrepreneurship.  As part of the programme, they invite business people to come and talk to the youth.  She mentioned that the University has the resources and WFF have what it takes to convince the youth.  She mentioned that WFF also worked with the Ministry of Agriculture.  She concluded by thanking WFF team that worked with the University team and hoped that the partnership will go very far.

After signing, the Pro Vice Chancellor (PVC) – Academics, Prof. T.H. Gadaga concluded with vote of thanks where he thanked WFF for the collaboration with the University of Eswatini.