Swaziland turns Japanese food aid into cash

Despite an ongoing food crisis, the Swazi government has confirmed that it had sold maize given by Japan to fund a new scheme.

Bertram Stewart, principal secretary of Swaziland’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, recently told Swazi reporters that almost 12,000 tons of the donated maize was sold by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development in 2011 for $3 million. It remains unclear to whom it had been sold.

Stewart claimed that the amount was deposited in Swaziland’s central bank to fund the procurement of farming inputs for subsistence farmers.

In a more alarming turn of events, Stewart said this was not the first time a sale such as this had happened.

An official from the Japan International Cooperation Agency told Devex that the practice was indeed a “usual procedure for the recipient government to distribute food through the market” and that the agency does not consider the issue a serious problem.

Hence, the official foresees no negative impact on future food aid or assistance that the Japanese government will extend to Swaziland.

The ministry, however, is currently in the grinder with members of the Swazi parliament for the sale, and there have been calls for Prince Hlangusemphi Dlamini, Swaziland’s economic planning minister, to clarify why the food donation was redirected when it was intended for poor and hungry citizens.

Dlamini, brother to Swazi King Mswati III, has so far remained silent on the issue.

According to the World Food Program’s 2012 vulnerability assessment, 115,713 people in Swaziland are currently dealing with food deficits, compared to 88,511 in 2011. In the assessment, 42 percent of rural households and 67 percent of urban households named an increase in prices, due to the country’s current fiscal crisis, as the main culprit.

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About the author

  • Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a former Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covered the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business, and the law.