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A comprehensive scoping and assessment study of climate smart agriculture (CSA) policies in Swaziland
30 April 2014
A.M. Manyatsi and N. Mhazo


Geographic setting, climate and agriculture

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a monarchy and land-locked country located in the south eastern part of Africa covering an area of 17,363 km2. It is bounded by the Republic of South Africa on the north, west and south and by the Republic of Mozambique to the east. It is classified four ecological zones: Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld, and Lubombo Range (Sweet and Khumalo, 1994). The altitude ranges from 250 m above sea level in the Lowveld, to 1400 m above sea level in the Highveld. The Lowveld ispredominantly gentle undulating plain as opposed to the Highveld that has steep slopes on steeply dissected escapement. The natural vegetation ranges from short sour grasslands with forest patches in the cooler and moist Highveld to Acacia savanna in the hotter and dry Lowveld. The general climatic characterization of Swaziland is subtropical with wet hot summers (October - March) and cold dry winters (April-September). The ecological zones show clearly different climatic conditions, ranging from sub-humid and temperate in the Highveld to semi-arid and warm in the Lowveld. Mean annual rainfall ranges from about 1,500 mm in the northern Highveld to 500 mm in the southern Lowveld. About 75% of the annual rainfall is received in the summer period. Precipitation varies considerably from year to year, which either may lead to periods of flash flooding or drought. Mean annual temperature varies from 17°C in the Highveld to 22°C in the Lowveld.

Agriculture in Swaziland is dualistic divided into commercial estates on Title Deed Land (TDL) and subsistence farms on Swazi Nation Land (SNL). The commercial sector, which occupies about 40% of the cultivated land, produces mostly export crops such as irrigated sugarcane, citrus and pineapples. Commercial estates are characterised by high levels of mechanisation and irrigation infrastructure. The commercial estates generate about 81% of the national agricultural commodity value. Agriculture contributed 8.1% of GDP in 2012 (Central Bank of Swaziland, 2013). Crop production in SNL is labour intensive, mostly rainfed and thus prone to climate variability and climate change (Penin and Hlophe, 2013).

Population and socio-economic conditions

The last national census that was conducted in 2007 put the population at 1,018,449, with annual growth rate of 0.9% (Government of Swaziland, 2007). The distribution between male and female is 47.3% versus 52.7%, respectively. Over half of the population was below 20 years old, implying that the population had a potential to grow at a much higher rate, and the demand for resources was likely to outstrip the supply. The majority of the people (75%) live in communal land and they strongly depend on subsistence agriculture and natural resources for livelihoods (Central Bank of Swaziland, 2013). Swaziland is classified as a lower middle-income country with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US$ 5,300 in 2012 yet about 63% of the population fell below the national poverty line in 2010 (World Bank, 2012). The urban population is 21%, with annual rate of urbanisation being 1.5% (IndexMundi, 2012). The GDP growth was 1.2% in 2011, lower than the 1.9% in 2010. This was attributed to government cash flow problems and rising fuel prices which impacted transport negatively (African Economic Outlook, 2012). The low GDP growth compromised the capacity for the country to provide employment and to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The country's economy is predominantly agricultural-based and agriculture provides livelihoods and income for the majority of the population. It is highly dependent on South Africa, which accounts for 90% of Swaziland's imports, 60% of exports and supplies 50% of electricity (Central Bank of Swaziland, 2013). The imports include maize and maize products, dairy products, vegetables and construction material. On the other hand exports include sugar, citrus, beef, minerals (coal and iron ore), textile and timber. Climatic conditions are the driving forces for agriculture, and climate change will have a major effect on the sector. The high rate of poverty makes the majority of the population vulnerable to climate change and compromises their adaptation capacity. Prevalence estimates for HIV stood at 26% of adults (31% in adult women and 20% in adult men; (UNDP, 2011). HIV/AIDS has the potential to impact on the household by reducing the sources of income and by increasing household expenditure. It also leads to loss of labour for economic activities (including agriculture and other livelihood activities), and loss of productivities due to absenteeism (NERCHA, 2012).


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