Nearly half the people surveyed in Swaziland / Eswatini have not heard of climate change even though the kingdom has experienced its worst drought.
But, the people surveyed by Afrobarometer did say they had noticed an increase in severe weather in recent years. Afrobarometer said, 'The same period has also seen a sharp decline in crop-production levels and crop diversity due to climate variability. Maize production in the country dropped by 67 percent between the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 planting seasons, especially in the lowveld. Declines in crop production are major setbacks to subsistence and commercial farmers as well as to a national economy in which agriculture ranks second only to manufacturing.'
The results of its survey of 1,200 adults has recently been released. About two-thirds of people said that droughts (65 percent) and flooding (64 percent) had become 'somewhat more severe' or 'much more severe' in their region over the past decade.
Even so, almost half (45 percent) of respondents said they had never heard of climate change.
Afrobarometer reported, 'Among respondents who are aware of climate change, six out of 10 (61 percent) attribute it to human activity.' It added, 'More than half of citizens who are aware of climate change believe that ordinary people can do "a little" (27 percent) or "a lot" (24 percent) to fight climate change.'
Afrobarometer did not report that people in Swaziland were continually mislead about the nature of the drought. The kingdom is ruled by King Mswati III who is one of the last absolute monarchs in the world. The media in Swaziland are heavily censored when covering the King and report his words uncritically.
In January 2017, King Mswati told his subjects that the drought was a test from God. He said that it was only because people believed in the Christian God that rain had recently fallen in Swaziland.
The drought had crippled Swaziland and according to statistics from United Nations Children's' Fund (UNICEF) at the time about 350,000 of Swaziland's 1.2 million population were affected by drought and of these 189,000 were children. UNICEF stated 308,059 people were 'food insecure' and 8,460 children aged under 59 months suffered 'acute malnutrition'.
Despite the King's lavish personal spending, including putting down a deposit of US$7.3m for a private jet plane, Swaziland was unable to fund drought relief.
In February 2016, the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and called on international agencies to donate E248 million (US$16 million) over the coming two months. In total, government would need about E2 billion to address the situation over five years, it was reported.
The national emergency was declared only weeks after King Mswati III told his subjects the drought in his kingdom was over. He had this when his regiments took part in the Incwala ceremony. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on 1 January 2016 that the King had 'pronounced an end to the drought situation'.
It reported, 'The King said the drought situation changed as soon as the water party (bemanti) was commissioned to fetch water in the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.
The newspaper added, 'As he pronounced an end to the drought situation, the King predicted a bumper harvest and urged all Swazis to go and work hard in their fields.'
Scientists agree that the drought in Swaziland and across southern Africa is the effect of El Niño, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns.
The Sunday Observer, (29 January 2017) a companion to the Swazi Observer, reported, 'His Majesty said he was proud because it turned out that Swazis really believed in God as they were now experiencing tremendous amounts of rain.'
The newspaper said the King told 'thousands of Christians' assembled at the Mandvulo Grand Hall, 'God tests your faith as a Christian by setting challenges and it is through these that as a Christian you must really pray and trust in Him to come through for you, because He is a faithful God.'