Saturday, May 25, 2013

Agriculture in Swaziland

"The economy of Swaziland is largely dependent on agriculture. The agricultural sector employs 70% of the population and agriculture contributes 12 % of Gross Domestic Product (CSO, 2000-2001).

The share of agriculture in GDP has however been declining in recent years. The share of agriculture fell from 21% in 1985 to 9% in 1995, and 12% in 2001. Whereas the contribution of the manufacturing sector has increased from 16% to 36%. Agriculture does remain the key sector in Swaziland's economy directly and indirectly via agro-processing industries. The top three exports in total value over the last 5 years are edible concentrates, sugar and wood pulp.

The heavy reliance on agriculture renders economic growth vulnerable to climatic shocks. For example, growth of real per capita GDP fell from 6% in 1990 to a negative rate in 1991/92 during a severe drought that was experienced in the country.

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a small landlocked country located in southern Africa and bordered by Mozambique and the Republic of South Africa. Swaziland has a total land area of 17364 square kilometres and a population of 980,722 (Census, 1997) with an annual growth rate of 2.9%. Only 11% of the land area is arable.

There are two major types of land ownerships. There is Swazi Nation Land (SNL) and Title Deed Land (TDL). Swazi Nation Land is communal and is held in trust for the nation by the King through Chiefs who allocate usufruct rights to individual Swazi families. Agriculture on the SNL is basically subsistence in nature. The Title Deed Land includes commercial farms, estates and ranches that are freehold or on concession agreements. Agriculture on the TDL is mainly commercial.

Swaziland has four agro-climatic zones which run longitudinally north to south. They are, from West to East, the Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld, and the Lubombo plateau. The climatic conditions of the zones are:

•The Highveld covers 5,029.5 square kilometres of average altitude of 1300 metres, temperatures vary from 10 degrees to 23 degrees centigrade, and rainfall varies between 1016 - 2285 mm.

•The Middleveld covers 4,597.5 square kilometres of average altitude of 700 metres, temperatures vary from 14 degrees to 26 degrees centigrade, and rainfall varies between 762 - 1192 mm.

•The Lowveld covers 6,416.2 square kilometres of average altitude of 200 metres, temperatures vary from 15 degrees to 29 degrees centigrade, and rainfall varies between 508 - 890 mm.

•The Lubombo Plateau covers 1.321.2 square kilometres of average altitude of 700 metres, temperatures vary from 14 degrees to 26 degrees centigrade, and rainfall varies between 635 - 1016 mm.

Agriculture in the country is largely dualistic, with mainly subsistence agriculture on Swazi Nation Land and commercial agriculture sector on TDL which is characterised by relatively high capital intensity, cash-crop production (mostly sugarcane, citrus fruits, and timber), irrigation, leasehold tenure and corporate ownership. In contrast, the traditional smallholder agriculture sector on SNL consists of about 90,000 household operated farms with average size of about 1.3 hectares, communal tenure, rain-fed technology and an over-concentration on maize production for subsistence.

The size of landholdings on SNL are small and are becoming fragmented further as population pressure on the land mounts. In 2000/2001, land holdings less than 1 hectare in size constituted of total landholdings on SNL. For example, in 1996/97, land holdings that were less than 1 hectare were 68% of total land holdings whilst in 2000/2001 these small holdings had increased to an incredible 92%. Larger land holdings measuring 1 to 2 hectares were 25% of total land holdings in 1996/97, in 2000/01 they had increased to 3.3%. Swazi Nation Land is obviously being fragmented at an alarming rate, probably due to population growth and with dire consequences to smallholder agriculture in the country.

Livestock production is a major agricultural activity and cattle are the main investment asset in much of Swaziland. According to the Annual Statistical Bulletin, cattle numbered 586 367, whilst there were 296 000 goats, 15700 sheep, 36 700 pigs and 1,700,000 poultry. Farmers, mostly those on SNL, are reluctant to sell good quality cattle unless forced by economic or climatic conditions. Swaziland has a quota to export 3360 tons of beef to the EU, however, only manages to export a small fraction of this. In 2000 only 665 tonnes were exported."