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Swaziland - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


Swaziland supports a diverse assemblage of habitats, which are home to a wide range of organisms. Survey work has shown that significant portions of southern Africa’s plant and animal species occur here. The eastern region of Swaziland, for example, forms part of the Maputaland Centre of Plant Diversity, one of the world’s hotspots of floral and faunal species richness and endemism, while the western region is the Drakensberg Escarpment Endemic Bird Area also of global significance. Three biomes occur in Swaziland, namely the grassland, savanna and forest biomes. The forest biome is the most restricted, covering less than 1% of the country’s total area. The extent of aquatic ecosystems is limited to about 1% of the total land area and most of them are manmade in the form of water reservoirs for agriculture and water supply. There are a total of 2,715 higher plant species, 378 breeding birds, 111 reptile species and 41 amphibian species (WRI Earth Trends). A total of 121 mammal species have been identified, which represents a third of all non-marine mammal species occurring in southern Africa. The larger carnivores or herbivores are more or less restricted to game reserves (Swaziland National Trust Commission). Natural processes (e.g. erosion), human activities (e.g. agriculture), forest plantations and human settlements are causing a decrease in the diversity and distribution of the natural flora. Land degradation, fragmentation of habitats, invasive plant species and rapid degradation of the biological resources are the key challenges to be addressed.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

Approximately only 4% of Swaziland’s total land area is protected, represented in twelve conservation areas. The main conservation areas are 4 nature reserves: Malolotja, Mlawula, Mantenga and Hawane run by the Swaziland National Trust Commissin.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The main goals and objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan are as follows: to reinforce awareness of the importance of policy reform concerning biodiversity and conservation; to identify activities to be undertaken by a proposed Global Environment Facility biodiversity conservation project; to draw upon traditional knowledge about environment management and alternatives to resource-based livelihoods; to integrate this knowledge with relevant international conventions and undertakings; to stimulate and maintain conservation both in situ and ex situ and to determine the current status of biodiversity. The main themes for the identified priority issues and activities are: alien invasive species, fragmentation of ecosystems, biodiversity conservation options for communal management, natural resource accounting, legislative development, lack of control of the medicinal plant trade, in situ conservation of genetic resources and capacity building.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Several measures and initiatives have been put in place to modify the existing protected areas network and achieve protection of 10% of the full range of ecosystems. For example, taxonomic priorities were identified for the restoration, maintenance and reduction in the decline of populations of species of selected taxonomic groups. Red Data Lists for plants and vertebrates have also been developed. A Biodiversity Implementation Programme Committee (BPIC) was established to oversee the implementation of the CBD and its related activities. The Environmental Management Act of 2002 strengthens the country’s environmental governance capacity and promotes the enhancement, protection and conservation of the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources. The Environmental Audit, Assessment and Review Regulations of 2000 require a systematic examination of the environmental impact of the proposed project to determine whether or not the activity will have any adverse impacts on the environment and prepare a mitigation plan to manage the resulting impacts. Finally, a national Biosafety framework is being formulated.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

The main priority is to protect 10% of the full range of ecosystems. The Biodiversity Conservation and Participatory Development Project, together with Transfrontier Conservation Areas Programme, will seek to establish additional protected and community managed areas that are presently fragmented. 16 priority areas have been identified through a Protection-worthy Areas Survey in 2003/2004. The country has taken limited action to increase the representation of inland water ecosystems through formal and informal protection measures, with only one small inland reservoir having formal protection status, namely the Hawane Nature Reserve. Practical steps to integrate transboundary landscapes into formally protected and managed areas have been identified through the Transfrontier Conservation Areas Programme. The country acknowledges that the process of identification and establishment of protected areas is hindered by outdated legislation that has yet to be improved, namely the Swaziland National Trust Commission Act of 1973. The Government is in the process of reviewing legislation with the aim of updating it into a comprehensive biodiversity act.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

Some measures to enhance the capacity of indigenous and local communities to be effectively involved in decision-making are being undertaken. For instance, members of the community managed Shewula Nature Reserve, received training and support from an Italian NGO for capacity building. Community members surrounding the Malolotja and Mlawula Nature Reserves have received similar training on permaculture activities. The EIA legislation calls for the consultation and participation of local communities during EIA investigations. Where capacity of local communities is limited, the project is required to build that capacity to encourage participation. The Forest Policy and Bill identify the need to establish community resource management committees to better understand and manage their local natural environment. The 2005 Decentralization Policy promotes regional and sub-regional development through the Tinkhundla system of local government through active community participation.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme