Inyandzaleyo Maswati As Drought hits hard in the lubombo region.

14 October 2015.
The Swaziland Economic Justice Network (SEJUN) recently commissioned a study on the problems of poverty in the outlying areas, particular in the Lubombo region as a draught prone are. Among some of the areas we visited last week on a fact finding mission include Siphofaneni, Gucuka, Sithobeklweni, Big Bend, Nsoko, Lubulini, Zindwendweni, Somntongo and Maloam. The situation we faced in these areas can no longer wait for our conclusive report as it now borders on a national disaster and quick and decisive intervention needed as in yesterday.
The SEJUN notes that the media has already started reporting about the death of cattle in the draught stricken areas and also appreciates the concerns raised by affected Members of Parliament to raise alarm and the need for decisive action.
We are, however, disappointed that government has not acted with the requisite speed to try and find short and long term solutions to the problems of draught not just the Lubombo region but the entire country. In our visit we were informed that in one family they had lost close to 43 cattle owing to draught while other families have not planted anything for their own livelihood in over a year.
As many will know, most Swazis are subsistence farmers who grow maize and other crops to eat and raise families while also rearing cattle to sell and educate their children. In Swazi tradition a man’s cattle reflects his wealth and most Swazis have sentimental attachment to their livestock. It is for that reason that the death of cattle owing to draught is equally an emotional trauma to most families.  It is for that reason that a holistic approach must be taken in the draught stricken areas that addresses the problems of the cattle as well as counseling for the cattle.
The problems with budget allocation
It is worth recalling that government allocated only E1.5 Billion in the 2014/2015 national budget towards agriculture. This is despite that in 2002 she signed the Maputo declaration which states that she would allocate nothing less than 10 percent of the national budget towards agriculture. This year’s budget allocation to agriculture was about 3.5 percent  of the national budget.
The 10 percent commitment to agriculture was designed to put African countries on track to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of cutting poverty and hunger in half by 2015. African countries long appreciated that Agriculture was going to be the sine qua non towards ending poverty and hunger in the continent. Government committed her political weight behind the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)— an African-led initiative established in 2002 by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and African Union (AU). Under this initiative, it was focused that all governments in Africa would develop agriculture as an important locomotive in the fight against hunger, poverty, food insecurity as well as increase opportunities in the export market. At the Maputo meeting, the heads of state agreed that there must be constant agriculture growth in all the countries, fixed at 6 percent per year. Sadly, this has not happened in Swaziland.  This has seen the country constantly lag behind in terms of developing agriculture to be the main driver of the Swazi economy, especially as our rural agriculture has not been integrated into mainstream economy. For example, our people in rural areas still use manual labour for agriculture which does not reflect modern ways of engaging in agriculture.
 Rural poverty in the Kingdom of Swaziland: understanding the bigger problem
Swaziland is ranked as a lower middle-income country yet income distribution within the country is extremely unequal. The wealthiest 10 percent of the population account for nearly half of total consumption and there is an ever-widening gap between urban and rural development. There are clear signs that poverty and unemployment are on the rise. About 84 percent of the country’s poor people live in rural areas, where per capita income is about four times lower than in urban areas, and food consumption is two times lower. A large proportion of rural households practice subsistence agriculture. About 66 percent of the population is unable to meet basic food needs, while 43 per cent live in chronic poverty. When drought hit Swaziland in 2004 and 2005 more than one quarter of the country’s population required emergency food aid. In 2007 Swaziland experienced one of its worst droughts which led to major food insecurity. It has been reported that Swaziland will be hit by El Niño which will devastate the country’s draught prone areas the most.
Who are Swaziland’s rural poor people?
Women are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Constitutionally, women can own and control land and their finances. However, traditional social systems discriminate severely against them and often bar them from owning and controlling land. In rural areas women have less access to education, and as many as 70 percent of adult females are illiterate, compared to the national average of 21 percent. Households headed solely by women are growing in number, as men seek employment away from home and HIV/AIDS takes its toll. Women struggle to feed their families and meet household needs single-handedly. At present 20 percent of households are headed by women, and a further 20 per cent are managed by women while adult males are employed away from home.
Young people are increasingly vulnerable to poverty. About 47 percent of the population is under the age of 15 and in the next decade or so young people without work will cause the number of unemployed to rise considerably. There is an urgent need to create employment opportunities for this large and growing number of young people, most of whom are children of poor households. Swaziland is experiencing a major increase in child-headed households as a result of HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Where are Swaziland’s rural poor people?
Poverty is concentrated mainly in areas where the climate is most unfavourable and agricultural productivity is lowest. The Lowveld is the hottest and driest zone and the most vulnerable to drought. Most of the rural population, including the poorest communities in the country, live on Swazi Nation Land. This land is held in trust for the nation by the king and it is administered by the chiefs. It makes up about 75 per cent of the country’s total land area. Most of the people who live on Swazi Nation Land farm small plots, cultivating maize and keeping cattle, and occasionally producing a cash crop.
Why are they poor?
Poor economic growth, a rapidly expanding population and an increasingly uneven distribution of resources are factors that contribute to the growing number of Swaziland’s rural poor people. Other factors aggravating poverty are the rise in unemployment, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the fact that large parts of the country are vulnerable to drought and climate change. Environmental fragility is beginning to affect food security. Overgrazing has caused soil depletion, while drought and periodic floods have become persistent problems.Smallholder farmers living on Swazi Nation Land face a number of obstacles that prevent them from breaking out of poverty. The low agricultural productivity of the land can be attributed to a number of factors including difficult road access, poor linkages to markets, limited availability of irrigation water and vulnerability to climatic changes.
Extreme Drought in Swaziland and COP 21: Linkages of Drought and climate change
Drought in Swaziland is a result of long term environmental degradation and policy blunders at all levels. To address this following might help:
1                    Strengthen, improve early warning systems to prepare local people and build their resilience before the disaster hits
2                    Strengthen adaptive capacity at all levels to cope and adapt to climate change impact as climate change will affect all life spheres. Local people have to have knowledge of how to adapt; Civil Society (CS) has role to play here.
3                    National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) needs proper financing or enhancement since CC has come to stay. Swaziland government need to set aside adequate funding to address impact of climate change without relying much on donor community
4                    Government and CS need to quickly come together and assess the most vulnerable productive sectors in the country’s economy and develop short to long term interventions to mitigate impacts of climate change. This should be linked to the SADC Vulnerability Assessment to climate change as well as.   
SEJUN knows that since government will be attending the climate change conference in France, these are the issues that we feel must be raised;
1                    Resolutions from COP 21 should be regarded as minimum standards and not maximum standards to address climate change in the world. More needs to be done at the country, regional, continental and global levels each according to mutual but shared responsibility. Those who pollute more need to do mitigate more
2                    There is need for independent citizen monitoring programmes on climate change interventions to check their impact; not all interventions are making the desired results; those who have power seem to continue to dictate the path for climate change mitigation just as it has been with the Aid, Debt and Trade architectures.  CS need to do more to hold the UNFCCC, SADC Climate Change Programme, AU Climate change programmes to account for their interventions on the ground. 
3                    There is need for more interventionist global policies on taxation and low carbon technology; the world cannot continue on the development path of burning fossil fuels for its industries. Unfortunately, countries such as China, the US and EU are taking their time to switch to more cleaner development paths; changes in current development trajectory which call for reduction in fossil fuel burning would mean reduction in production of trade goods.
4                    There is need for total global revolution in economic and social policy to stop global warming.
We therefore propose that as an immediate solution the problems of draught in the Lubombo region the following needs to be done:
–          The Minister of Agriculture as well as Minister of Health must visit the affected areas for a firsthand account of what is happening around these areas. This will assist the Honourable Ministers to develop ideas and suggestions which would serve the remaining livestock and prevent any human loss of lives through practising safety precautions. This is because the poverty stricken people of these areas tend to eat some of the decaying meat and this is a health hazard and could cause an outbreak of many diseases. Some of the cattle die in the muddy streams only to find that downstream there are people who are using the water for cooking and washing. This is an early warning that very soon we could face problems of loss of human life. 
–          Immediate water and food supply to the people. This is necessitated by the fact that it is not just animals that are affected by this draught but ordinary people too who have not planted any crop in the last year owing to the draught. These people were surviving by selling their cattle and right now there is no longer anything they can sell nor eat. Government must immediately assist the our people with food and water
–          The government must immediately provide hay as a temporary measure for those cattle that have survived the draught. Government also needs to dispatch a veterinary team to inspect if the cattle have not been infected by any diseases and to assist the people in getting their cattle back. 
–          Government, working with the communities, must also assist identify and burn the dead and decomposing cattle in an environmentally safe way.