Swaziland has been affected by drought conditions this agricultural season. Rainfall for 2003/4 has divided the country into two distinct parts. The western third has been wet while the central and eastern two thirds have had erratic rains with very dry conditions between October and December. Total rainfall may be one-third below the long-run average. The Highveld and ‘Wet’ Middleveld are considered to have reasonable crop prospects. The ‘Dry’ Middleveld and the Lowveld have been seriously affected by drought conditions with large numbers of people failing to cultivate because of the late rains. Veld and livestock condition have deteriorated. Between 1.4%-1.6% of the cattle population in Lubombo and Shiselweni Regions died of starvation mostly in the period of November and December 2003. Preliminary maize forecasts (as at mid-February) indicate 10-15% of normal production in the Lowveld. The gap between cereal consumption requirement and domestic cereal production at national level is estimated to be between 110,000 MT and 140,000 MT which could be curbed through imports and food aid among other options.
In combination with other shocks and hazards there are concerns about a growing and cumulative ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the worst affected areas in the country where many households are unable to sustain viable livelihoods in the face of cumulative shocks. Swaziland’s high level of income inequality ensures that a high proportion of the population is poor and constantly vulnerable to shocks. The levels of vulnerability have considerably worsened given three years of depressed food production and rural incomes1. Furthermore, the current impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is exacting a very heavy burden on the population and the economy2. The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS was the second highest in the world in 2002 after Botswana - a drop in the prevalence rate is not anticipated in the near future (see figure 1). Increasing rates of morbidity and mortality are exacting a huge toll on the ability of households to produce food and earn income while at the same time increasing household expenditure on health and related costs. Children are particularly affected by HIV/AIDS with an increasing number of orphans and very vulnerable child headed households resulting from the over extended kinship networks. The cost to average household income of chronic illness has not been determined in Swaziland.3 The ability of Government services to respond to the problems has been eroded by illness and mortality of Government and private sector staff.4
Figure 1: HIV/AIDS Prevalence Rate (Ante-Natal Clinic Data)5
Maize meal prices in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 have been 45% above the five-year average (1998-2002). This has eroded the purchasing power especially of poor households and reduced access to food. Drought conditions have affected Swaziland's neighbours with Lesotho and South Africa declaring a national disaster and provincial disasters respectively. The failure of production in countries neighbouring Swaziland will have significant implications for the future price of maize as seen by the recent steep increases in South African maize futures between November and January. Swaziland's reliance on cereal imports makes these indicators extremely important. Given the current situation, the Government of Swaziland declared a state of national disaster in mid February focusing on the four main scourges of poverty, HIV/AIDS, drought and land degradation.
The current report uses updated livelihood baseline data6 in combination with recent monitoring information7. It presents assessments of the severity/magnitude of various hazards on livelihoods and makes projections of food access for each food economy / livelihood zone in the country (see Appendix 1 & 2) - taking into account likely local coping strategies. The main areas of concern are the livelihood zones of the Lowveld the Lubombo and the Dry Middleveld.
1 GDP figures, at constant prices, for SNL Agricultural Crops indicate real contributions of crops 2000-2002 being 33% below their contributions 1996-98.
2 The National Emergency Response Committee on HIV/AIDS projects that out of a population of about 900,000, as many as 120,000 children under the age of 15 (or 16.7% of the total population) will have lost both parents. As a result of concerns by stakeholders the Swazi VAC has undertaken a national statistically based survey since June 2003 to analyse the impact of HIV/AIDS on the demography of the rural population and their livelihoods (see sources). This should be forthcoming in a matter of weeks.
3 The Swazi VAC plans to do a case study survey in the Lowveld to analyse the economic costs of HIV/AIDS on income levels.
4 A study (by MoAC et al 2002) portrays the impact of the disease on the Agricultural and Private Sector in Swaziland.
5 8th HIV Sentinel Serosurveillance Report, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, 2002
6 These include the sub-division of the Middleveld into its ‘Dry’ and ‘Wet’ parts plus the incorporation of the latest population estimates.
7 Maize production figures come from a combination of the NEWU forecasts, CSO statistics on area planted to maize and Meteorological and FAO/MoAC forecasts of maize yields throughout the country.
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