Swaziland: Swazis Give Government Poor Marks in Survey

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"We get government officials who say the poverty and hunger situation is exaggerated by NGOs. They deny a problem so they don't have to spend money on it and accuse NGOs of saying things are bad to get more donor funding," the manager said.

Swaziland has sufficient arable land to overcome its chronic food insecurity, but according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), it lacks the necessary agricultural and land-use policies to empower small-scale farmers.

Two-thirds of Swazis live on communal Swazi Nation Land, which is held in trust by King Mswati. Households are allocated plots by their local chief. Without title deeds, smallholder farmers lack collateral to secure bank loans that would allow them to make their land more productive by purchasing better seeds, fertilizer and irrigation equipment.

Swaziland has not produced enough food to feed itself since the 1970s. It depends on international food aid to bridge a gap that varies from year to year, ranging from two-thirds of the country's 1.2 million people in 2007 to about one-tenth of the population in 2013, after a better than average rainfall, according to WFP.

"Two out of three Swazis do not get enough to eat. This has been known to government for some time, but government doesn't see this as a systemic problem but something that can be remedied with food aid," said Thabo Nxumalo, an agronomist and agricultural consultant in the Manzini region.

"Food aid is supposed to be a temporary solution to an emergency situation. Government sees food aid as a means to avoid having to put into place policies to put an end to food insecurity," he alleged.

Nxumalo commented that if Swaziland is to overcome its food shortages, in the absence of government willingness to make fundamental changes to the land-use policy, it will be up to international donors to address the problem in the same way that they responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by financing improvements to the country's healthcare system.

Donor aid has vastly improved Swaziland's healthcare system, and a majority of the survey respondents said they had benefited from better service at clinics and hospitals.

"It took the AIDS crisis to improve healthcare. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has really boosted the country's health system. The AIDS crisis would be out of control without this assistance," said Valarie Dlamini, a healthcare consultant in Manzini.

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