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Swaziland, located in southeastern Africa, is a landlocked country bordered by Mozambique to the east and the Republic of South Africa on all other sides. It has a total area of 17 364 km. Cultivated land is estimated at 191 500 ha, which is 11% of the total area.

Basic statistics and population

Area of the country 1994 1 736 400 ha
Cultivable land   - ha
Cultivated land 1990 191 500 ha
Total population 1994 832 000 inhab.
Population density 1994 48 inhab./km
Rural population 1990 74 %
Water supply coverage    
Urban population 1992 86 %
Rural population 1992 30 %

The total population is 832 000 (1994), of which the rural population accounts for 74%. Annual demographic growth rate is estimated at 3.2%. The average population density is 48/km.

Agriculture contributes 13% to the GDP.

Climate and water resources

Average annual rainfall is 788 mm, but ranges from 500 mm in the eastern lowlands to 1 500 mm/year in the hilly, western, half of the country. Some 80% of the rain falls in the summer, from October to April.

Water resources are estimated at 4.5 km/year 42% of which originates from South Africa. A 1981 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers estimated that full river development in South Africa (potentially 21 dams) would reduce the surface water resources in Swaziland to 3.9 km/year

There are four main river systems.


Water balance

Water resources:      
Average precipitation   778 mm/yr
    13.5 km/yr
Internal renewable water resources - total   2.6 km/yr
Internal renewable water resources - per caput 1994 3 125 m/yr
Global renewable water resources   4.5 m/yr
Dependency ratio   42.2 %
Total dam capacity 1989 0.2 km
De-salinated water   - 10 6 m/yr
Water withdrawal:      
- Agricultural 1980 629.8 10 6 m/yr
- Domestic 1980 10.5 10 6 m/yr
- Industrial 1980 15.7 10 6 m/yr
Total   656.0 10 6 m/yr
per caput 1980 1 161 m/yr
as a % of internal renewable water resources   25.2 %
Other withdrawal   - 10 6 m/yr
Produced 1991 12.6 10 6 m/yr
Treated   - 10 6 m/yr
Re-used treated wastewater   - 10 6 m/yr

Irrigation and drainage

Irrigation potential 1987 90 000 ha
1. Full or partial control Irrigation: equipped area 1990 67 400 ha
- surface irrigation   - ha
- sprinkler irrigation   - ha
- micro-irrigation 1994 25 ha
% of area irrigated from groundwater   - %
% of area irrigated from surface water   - %
% of equipped area actually irrigated 1990 100 %
2. Spate irrigation area   - ha
3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms   - ha
4. Other cultivated wetland and inland valley bottoms   - ha
5. Flood recession cropping area   - ha
Total water managed area (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5) 1990 67 400 ha
- as a percentage of cultivated area 1990 35.2 %
- increase over last 10 years   - %
- power irrigated area as % of water managed area   - %
Full or partial control schemes: Criteria      
Large schemes > - ha 1990 66 400 ha
Medium schemes   - ha
Small schemes < - ha 1980 1 000 ha
Total number of households in irrigation 1993 5 929  
Irrigated crops:      
Total irrigated grain production   - t
as a % of total grain production   - %
Harvested crops under irrigation (full or partial control! 1994 67 400 ha
- sugar cane 1994 52 000 ha
- pineapple 1994 7 000 ha
- citrus 1994 4 000 ha
- other 1994 4 400 ha
-   - ha
Drainage - Environment:      
Drained area   - ha
as a % of cultivated area   - %
Flood-protected area   - ha
Area salinized by irrigation   - ha

A Tripartite Permanent Technical Committee (TPTC) between Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique addresses international water right issues.

No quantitative assessment of ground-water resources has yet been made, but potential groundwater is thought to be limited, due to the general absence of formations with intergranular porosity and permeability. Most of the 700 wells currently operated are located in basement complex. Yields are in general low: only 30% of the wells are rated more then 1 l/s, while only 5% are capable of producing more than 5 l/s.

Total water withdrawal was estimated at 0.66 km in 1980 (Figure 1).


The potential for irrigation development, based on available land resources, is estimated at 200 000 ha. However, based on both water and land resources, the potential for irrigation development drops to 90 000 ha, which is 47% of the cultivated land.

There are two systems of land tenure in Swaziland which influence farming systems:

The irrigation sector in Swaziland consists mainly of large private farmers and internationally-owned enterprises. The Total water managed area is estimated at 67 400 ha of full or partial control irrigation schemes. These schemes are of two types.

The main crops are vegetables and maize. For most schemes, water is supplied from small dams and syphoned from the field canals into short furrows or basins.

Recently, micro-irrigation schemes (0.5 ha each) have been introduced by the Swaziland Farmer Development Foundation (SFDF). The purpose of the schemes is the development of garden groups, usually consisting of women, to produce vegetables. SFDF provides capital and technical assistance, while the group should provide free labour for installation and contribute to the operating costs. After two years, the group becomes entirely responsible for the operation of the scheme. The most common source of supply is pumping water from a peren-nial stream to a reservoir, which then supplies the downstream fields through a buried PVC pipe system. Yields are 40 t/ha for cabbage and 30 t/ha for tomatoes.

Large-scale irrigation accounts for 95% of total water withdrawal.

FIGURE 1: Water withdrawal (total: 0.66 km in 1980)

The main irrigated crop is sugar cane, followed by pineapple and grapefruit (Figure 2).


The Water Services Corporation is in charge of water supply. The Water Resources Branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Land Utilisation and Energy monitors the surface water resources and issues water abstraction rights. However, the actual withdrawal is not monitored.


The irrigation potential in Swaziland is limited by availability of water resources. Increase in the irrigated area could be achieved through the construction of reservoirs. The planning of large schemes requires cooperation at river-basin level. Moreover, the local capacity to implement large-scale water development projects is limited.

A promising development option for irrigation are the recently introduced micro-schemes for vegetable cultivation. These schemes offer attractive returns to labour and capital. Expansion of the communal smallholder projects is a component of the proposed IFAD Smallholder Agricultural Development Project.


Central Statistical Office. 1990. Annual statistical bulletin 1990.

Central Statistical Office. 1994. Swaziland census of agriculture, Phase one: Complete coverage of rural areas. (Provisional tables)

Department of the Army, US Corps of Engineers. 1981. Swaziland: Water and related land resources framework plan.

FAO. 1994. Present land use map of Swaziland, scale 1:250 000. Field document of UNDP/FAO project SWA/89/001.

FAO. 1994. Water resources and irrigation. Project SWA/89/001.

UNDP. 1994. Swaziland, 1992-1993 report.

Water and Sewerage Board. 1992. Annual report 1990-91.

World Bank. 1987. Swaziland agricultural sector update.

World Bank/UNDP. 1990. Sub Saharan Africa Hydrological assessment. Country report: Swaziland.

FIGURE 2: Irrigated crops (1994)

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