Responding to the drought in Swaziland

Dec 2016

The 2015/16 agricultural season was the driest that Southern Africa has experienced in 35 years. With 70 percent of the region’s population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, the drought caused by a weather phenomenon called El-Niño has had devastating effects.

A rising of temperatures in the pacific adversely affecting global weather patterns causes El Niño. In Southern Africa, it was mostly characterized by little and erratic rainfall.

Consequently areas like Lubombo region, a plateau region east of Swaziland, may look green and lush but that is a deceptive greenness. The Lubombo region usually enjoys an abundance of rainfall and cool temperatures making it a very productive region. However all this changed for farmers like Lindiwe when the region was hit by severe drought.

Fortunately for Lindiwe, she was part of a pilot 25-member Farmer Field School working on setting up Food Nutrition Gardens. The project was implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the European Union, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The El Niño induced drought did not spare animals either. Livestock are very important to the people of Swaziland, particularly farmers like Alpheus Masuku who lives in Mathendeni, a drought prone area in Swaziland’s Lowveld. When the drought hit, pastures and water were affected leading to the death of 80 000 cattle across the country.

Alpheus is the chairman of a group of farmers who have come together to improve their welfare. Through a borehole installed by FAO and the EU, the community is able to provide clean drinking water for the families and their livestock. With the establishment of Food and Nutrition gardens and water supply points for livestock, the communities’ resilience is being built to minimize the suffering that comes with these climatic shocks.