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Swaziland - Main Details

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

According to Swaziland’s State of Environment Report (2012), there is a decline in and extinction of wild animal species and populations and indigenous plant species. Approximately 25% of each of the terrestrial ecosystems has been lost to some form of other land use. A total of 4,280 km2 of biodiversity-rich ecosystems has been converted to industrial timber plantations, sugarcane plantations and urban areas. Aquatic water systems, in particular, are under threat from agricultural development as wetlands are drained for development or are negatively affected by changes within their catchment. Also, overexploitation of plant genetic resources from wetlands and terrestrial habitat poses a challenge to natural plant regeneration. These factors have resulted in diminishing resources and reducing the resilience of ecosystems.

Agriculture is the backbone of Swaziland’s economy, with the sugar sector consuming over 96% of the country’s freshwater for irrigation purposes and accounting for 59% of Swaziland’s agricultural output (equivalent to 18% of the country’s GDP). The citrus industry is also a significant contributor to the economy and alone produced around $10 million in sales in 2009. Tourism contributed about 4% of the national GDP in 2011 and directly supported 6000 jobs (1.6% of total formal employment). Swaziland’s wildlife and landscapes are considered important tourist attractions, among others.

Traditional medicine is widely used in Swaziland. It has been suggested that around 80% of the Swazi population consults the country’s 8000 traditional healers, and a range of plant and animal species are used in the preparation of traditional medicine. An independent study reported that some households reported to be earning as much as $200 per month from the sale of craft made from indigenous plants. In addition, a draft FAO report on global forest resources assessment estimated that cosmetics made from non-wood forest products contributed about $60,000 to the local economy in 2010. The Swazi culture is also deeply dependent on biological diversity both for everyday life and various traditional ceremonies practiced annually. For example, cultural and traditional use of biodiversity includes the reed (Phragmites mauritianus) dance and the Kingship ceremony involves the fetching of Lusekwane (Dichrostachys cinerea) bush by unmarried male youths and delivering it at the Queen Mother’s village. Also, traditional attire worn by males is made from selected wild animals (e.g. leopard (Panthera pardus), grey duiker (Sylvicapra rotundifolia) and impala (Aepyceros melampus)).

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The main pressures on Swaziland’s biodiversity include: conversion of natural habitats to other land uses; invasion of habitats by alien species (with the country’s protected areas not spared); rapid expansion of settlements and urbanization, including into biodiversity-rich areas; wild fires destroying ecosystems and altering habitats; climate change; overgrazing and the unsustainable use of natural resources. In addition to the ever-increasing poverty, particularly in the rural areas, population growth is resulting in the rapid degradation of Swaziland’s biodiversity in a vicious cycle of declining availability. Illegal and uncontrolled hunting has resulted in the extermination of most Swaziland’s vertebrates, especially on Swazi Nation Land (SNL).

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The first NBSAP was developed in 2001. It contained four core goals to: conserve a viable set of representative samples of the country’s full range of natural ecosystems through a protected areas network; sustainably use the biological resources of natural ecosystems outside the protected areas network; efficiently conserve the genetic base of Swaziland’s crops and livestock breeds; and minimize the risks associated with the use of LMOs. Although targets were set, the plan was not fully implemented because it was not formally adopted as a national policy instrument. Furthermore, other implementation partners were unaware of their implementation obligations or options.

NBSAP achievements include the preparation of red data lists for some taxa, such as higher plants and vertebrates, and an atlas for trees. Moreover, the National Plant Genetic Resource Centre currently holds about 960 accessions of cultivated species, and surveys of farm genetic resources have been carried out. Swaziland has also developed and approved a policy on biotechnology and biosafety, as well as enacted the Biosafety Act in 2012 along with guidelines and regulations to support implementation of the Act.

The revision of the NBSAP, including the establishment of national targets and associated indicators, is currently underway. The new NBSAP will be aligned with the global framework as well as with the country’s National Development Strategy (NDS). It will highlight and seek to maintain the contribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services to human well-being, and also include measures to mainstream biodiversity into sectoral and cross-sectoral policies and programmes.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The fifth national report confirms that, to date, substantial achievements have occurred in regard to Target 1 (Awareness increased) and Target 11 (Protected areas increased and improved).

Seminars and workshops have been held for educators, policy-makers, media personnel, the private sector and communities, among other groups. Chiefs and rural groups have taken leadership and action in the management of indigenous forests. Targeted programmes in the National Environmental Education Programmes (NEEP) seek to raise awareness and understanding among decision-makers, including at the level of Parliament.

At present only 3.9% (64,100 ha) of the country is formally protected as reserves, with a small percentage of land being informally conserved and managed by private land owners and communal land users. The GEF project envisages strengthening the management effectiveness of the protected area (PA) systems of Swaziland to ensure a viable set of representative samples of the country’s full range of natural ecosystems are conserved through a network of PAs. The project’s objective is to efficiently expand, manage and develop the country’s PA to 10%. A survey conducted in 2002 identified 44 protection-worthy areas to prioritize.

The Biodiversity Conservation and Participatory Project (BCPD) identified an east-west corridor in the northern part of the country, described as the Northern Biodiversity and Tourism Corridors (BTC), linking the coastal areas of Mozambique and South Africa with the Drakensberg escarpment (Songimvelo, Malolotja, Makhonjwa), and a north-south corridor in the eastern part of the country (The Eastern BTC) defined by the entire length of the Swaziland Lubombo plateau and escarpment.

It was conceptualised that the biodiversity conservation and management in the corridors will be underpinned by complementary activities maximizing economic benefits to rural communities through sustainable livelihoods, targeted infrastructure interventions and the development of tourism routes capitalizing on existing regional tourism dynamics.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Swaziland is making steady progress towards mainstreaming biodiversity in both the public and private sectors, although there are still challenges. The National Development Strategy (NDS) sets out the framework for sustainable development in a comprehensive manner across all sectors. It is an umbrella strategy for all other policies and strategies. Environmental integration in sectoral and macro-economic policies has taken place in a number of recent sector policies, notably the National Rural Resettlement Policy, the National Forest Policy (which encourages community-based resource management), the Comprehensive Agricultural Sector Policy, the National Food Security Policy and the National Energy Policy. The Forest Bill (2010) envisages to further enforce the management and increase of carbon sinks in the form of forests. In addition, the National Climate Change Policy, currently being finalized, aims to provide a national strategic framework for Swaziland to address the challenges and annex benefits as well as opportunities presented by climate change.

The National Trust Commission (Amendment) Bill (2009) was developed to amend the National Trust Commission Act (1972) to include new protected area categories and governance types.

The National Alien Invasive Plant Species Control and Management Strategy aims to promote cooperative, coordinated and integrated management and control of alien invasive plant species.

The Environmental Management Act (2002) requires Strategic Environmental Assessment (StrEA) of policies, programmes, strategies, action plans and legislative bills to be subjected to this form of assessment. Furthermore, mainstreaming biodiversity has been done mainly through the use of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

The Guidelines on Mining and Biodiversity are under development with the engagement of various stakeholders to secure the mainstreaming of biodiversity in the mining sector.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The revised NBSAP 2 will have a monitoring and evaluation framework that will form part of a continuous process to evaluate the implementation of the actions outlined in the NBSAP.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme