Agriculture and farming in Eswatini


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Agriculture in Swaziland - Eswatini

The Kingdom of Swaziland (officially the Kingdom of Eswatini) is a small landlocked nation surrounded by Mozambique and South Africa. Swaziland is one of the smallest nations in Africa with a total area of around 17,364 square kilometres. Just over 10 per cent of its land is arable. There are approximately 1.2 million people living in the country, out of which 75 per cent live in rural areas.

Swaziland is a predominantly rural society, with most of the population dependent on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. The country has a dual land tenure system consisting of:
- Swazi Nation Land (SNL), constituting around 60 per cent of total land area and is held in trust by the King who allocates it to households through traditional chiefs on his behalf;
- Title Deed Land (TDL) which is freehold land and mainly owned by companies (mainly sugarcane, forestry, citrus and pineapple plantation companies) as well as by some individuals. Production on TDL is market-oriented and uses modern technology and irrigation systems, while production on SNL is largely subsistence-oriented and rain-dependent.

Agriculture’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is currently estimated at around 8,4 per cent (as of 2020). TDL contributes about 80 per cent to the agricultural sector while around 10 per cent comes from SNL, with the remaining contribution from livestock and forestry.

Even though small in size the country has four distinct climatic regions; Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld, and the Lubombo Plateau. The Western most belt, the Highveld, is a mountainous area with an average altitude of 1,300 meters, split by many rivers, valleys and gorges. Only 10% of this land has potential and commercial forestry is for crops, and the rest is used for sheep and cattle grazing practised. The soils are heavily weathered and Climate is near-temperate but humid, with the annual rain-fall ranging from 1,016 to 2,286 mm. There is occasional frost. Temperatures vary between 33/ C and 4.5/ C.

The undulating Middleveld, with an average elevation of 700 meters, good soils and suitable slopes that favour intensive farming, has a warmer and drier climate. Temperatures vary between 37.2/ C and 2.5/ C and the annual rainfall ranges from 762 to 1,143 mm. A relatively high portion of the land is Swazi Nation Land (SNL). This region is agriculturally the most highly developed: Maize is the main crop cultivated on SNL, but tobacco, sorghum, beans, cotton, groundnuts and vegetables are also grown. On the privately owned Tittle Deed Land and farms, Citrus and Pineapple are the main crops. The Lowveld climate, like that of the Middleveld, is subtropical, although it is hotter and drier. Temperatures range from 41.8/ C to 2.6/ C and the annual rainfall from 508 to 590 mm. Since the region suffers from periods of protracted drought, crops are grown under irrigation - sugar predominates but cotton, rice, groundnuts, sorghum and citrus are also grown.

The easternmost region, the Lubombo Plateau, with an average altitude of 600 meters, has a climate very similar to that of the Middleveld. The Lubombo plateau produces the majority of the country’s cotton, sunflower and cow peas. Manzini, Hhohho and Shiselweni are the three leading regions in maize production and jointly they provide 93 per cent of the country’s maize production. Swaziland depends heavily on South Africa from which it imports 90 per cent of commodities and sends 70 per cent of its exports to.

The three main crops grown in Swaziland are: maize, sugar and cotton. Maize dominates local cereal cultivation with over 90 per cent of total cereal production. The bulk of home-grown maize is cultivated in the Highveld and Middleveld of Swaziland whereas the Lowveld produces most of the country’s sugar.

Livestock in Swaziland

Cattle are more than draft animals and a source of milk. They constitute a store of wealth for use on social and ceremonial occasions (e.g., lobola, or bride-price). Almost 89% of cows, heifers, and calves are kept in the SNL systems, while 11% are on TDL systems (Table 1). The communal systems are characterized by open grazing, low off-take rates (probably less than 10%), and low technical efficiency (calving rates, mortality rates, etc.). Cattle for SNL smallholders are kept for multiple purposes (tradition, manure, food, milk, security, draught, etc.), of which cash for sales into the beef VC is merely one.

Forestry in Swaziland

According to the U.N. FAO, 32.7% or about 563,000 ha of Swaziland is forested (country has around 140,000 ha of planted forest. Among the woody species, Greyia, Burchelia, Kigelia, Encephalartos, Erythrina and Anthocleista are ornamental; others, Strycnos, Bequartiodendron, Vangueria, Canthium, Cephalanthus, Sclerocarya and Syzigium have edible fruit. Species of Grewia, Brachyleana, Tarchonanthus, Breonardia, and Bauhinia are important in traditional home constructions including Royal residences and cattle kraals. Priced timber species include Olea africana, Pterocarpus angolensis, Spirostachys africana, Androstachys johnsonii. Species of Zizyphus, Lippia, Ficus and others are very important in traditional ceremonies such as burial and cleansing activities

Fisheries in Swaziland

The Fisheries Sector in Swaziland is wholly inland and relatively small and not well developed. But it plays a significant role in contributing to food security, particularly for the poverty prone members of the society. The two major components of the sector are aquaculture and capture fishery. The common fish species that are exploited are the tilapias ( T. mossambicus and T. rendalli) and catfish (Clarius garipinus ). Species that are mainly targeted for sport fishing (angling) include largemouth bass (Micropterus salmaides), rainbow trout (Salmo giardeneri) and tiger fish (Hydrocynus vittatus).

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