Climate change and agriculture
Challenges faced by smallholder rural subsistence farmers should be one of the key issues in policy and development discussions as they form 70% of the African populations and Swaziland is no exception. They manage large areas of agricultural productive land, however, productivity is very low and these households make up the largest share of the undernourished African population. With the negative impacts of global climate change, agricultural productivity continues to decline therefore leaving millions of rural households' vulnerable, food insecure, poor and less resilient to climate change. Climate change also threatens sustainable development by its negative impacts through adverse effects on the environment, health, food security, economic activities, biodiversity and physical infrastructure. This is fueled by the high dependence of African economies, employment opportunities and rural livelihoods on the agriculture sector.
Climate change is characterized by changes in precipitation patterns, rainfall variability, and increased temperatures, which has increased frequency of droughts, floods, wildfires, windstorms and hailstorms. The impacts of droughts in the Lowveld of Swaziland are worse than the other regions in the country because of its arid to semi-arid climatic conditions. As a result, households have since stopped farming and are solely dependent on social interventions and have developed dependency syndrome with 40 % of the arable land in the Lowveld not being cultivated for over 10 years. Rural dry land crops include maize, cotton, sorghum, drybeans, and cowpeas where maize still takes more than 80% of cropping area even in dry arid or semi-arid regions. This has resulted in very low yields and even total crop failure. A key strategy for managing risk and vulnerability associated with climate change is developing and implementing evidence-based policies and programmes that respond to local realities and priorities through adaptation and mitigation.