As the dirt blows across the unquenched region of Swaziland, South Africa, the first thought through one’s mind isn’t exactly farming potential.
But with the help of TechnoServe, a non-profit development organization, Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland were able to jump-start a spicy relationship with Tabasco, Co. through chili farms.
“The whole idea came up because we are a recipient of PEPFAR [President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief] money for some of our healthcare outworks, and there’s an organization called TechnoServe, which is also a US aid funded organization that helps private farmers develop,” Sr. Barbara Stanley, Cabrini Sister in Swaziland, said.
Swaziland has an extremely dry climate and only averages 20-35 inches of rain per year. Chilis are one of the few crops that survive in such dearth conditions.
“If all goes well, the chilis that we have been growing on our farm at Cabrini Ministries will soon end up in the bottles of Tabasco sauce,” the Cabrini Sisters in Swaziland said in their blog, Cabrini-ministries-swaziland.blogspot.com, in June 2008.
Now, nine months later, the people of Saint Philip’s Mission in Swaziland are back into harvesting season.
“We harvest from now until the end of May, so we are just at the beginning of it. We are hoping we’ll have a very successful crop, but that has yet to be seen because there have been challenges in this first year of growing because we had some problems with our water system,” Stanley said.
Despite the problems with the water system, the agricultural opportunity still generated a lot of new employment.
“There are 40 to 50 people during the harvesting season and weeding season that are employed and this gives some income that they would not have, plus, our permanent staff has learned skills that they can also take to their own homestead,” Stanley said, “So basically, the people have transferable skills that they’ll also be able to use on their own land.”
This gives opportunity to a portion of the 80 percent of the people still dependant on subsistence farming Swaziland.
“It has been a great opportunity, but it also has been a lot of hard work and we’re just hoping for a good outcome,” Stanley said.