While Swaziland has very good policies on paper, implementation still remains a challenge, which needs to change if the country is to improve its preparedness, mitigation, adaptation and resilience to droughts and other disasters in future.

This is one of the recommendations made in ‘The Socio-Economic Impacts of the 2015/16 El Niño Induced Drought in Swaziland’ study conducted by the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) on behalf of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The findings of the study were presented to stakeholders by SEPARC Research Fellow Mangaliso Mohammed during an event held at the Royal Villas. The study notes that the economic evaluation of drought impacts is essential in order to define efficient and sustainable management and mitigation strategies.

“Although the country’s Disaster Risk Management Policy is comprehensive, drought-proofing Swaziland is still a question of time and investment in the programmes stipulated in the policy. Essentially, drought-proofing the country should focus on rehabilitating and strengthening the country’s food production system so that it is not too dependent on direct rainfall,” the study finds.

This will require the inculcation of a sense of shared responsibility in establishing mechanisms that would eliminate adverse exposure to drought impacts. In order to eliminate systemic vulnerabilities, dependencies on food aid, and exposure to the adverse impacts of droughts, the study finds that encouraging employment and income generating activities across the country, particularly in agriculture, is necessary.

Even with the country’s solid Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Policy 2010, the study finds that Swaziland is struggling to become drought proof because despite the experience and knowledge gained from previous droughts in 1992, 2001, 2007 and 2009/10, the country’s economic backbone still rests on agriculture.

“On paper, the policy is solid and enshrined to the developmental process of the country; however, practical implementation needs serious firming up. The problem is not with the policy per se but an element of time and investment in the programmes stipulated in the policy,” says researcher Mohammed.

The study further recommends that strategies for drought-proofing Swaziland should focus on rehabilitating and strengthening the food production system as well as the general agriculture sector so that is not too dependent on direct rainfall.

In addition, it is advised that a sense of shared responsibility between government and households should be encouraged as a foundation for establishing mechanisms that will eliminate adverse exposure to drought impacts. In this sense, it is recommended that government should continue playing a leading role in the provision of water harvesting and storage infrastructure to allow continuous production in the agriculture sector even in times of drought.

The study also notes that while government gave considerable priority to drought relief and mitigation measures, because of resource redirection, the country deflected the implementation of key development strategies, which means the economic consequences will linger long after the drought.

“In 2015, government put the salary review for civil servants on hold while it had to defer some ongoing capital projects. Also, government did not pay its suppliers on time, which increased pressure on arrears, and the effects of deferring payment to suppliers compromised their ability to pay their taxes on time,” the study finds.

To ensure resilience going forward, the study recommends that government should consider revising and integrating all aspects of disaster mitigation to all policies in Swaziland. The NDMA is advised to consider advocating for increased water harvesting, and storage capacities within households and at the national level.

In addition, the NDMA is advised to focus on implementing the programmes stipulated in the DRM Policy to address the endemic risks to drought in the country for improvements in preparedness, mitigation, adaptation and resilience at the household level and in all sectors of the economy.

Also, since the NDMA’s mandate is to make sure that every citizen in the country, regardless of income status, receives adequate protection in the event of a disaster, the study recommends the development of a sustainable Disaster Management Budget and Funding Model in Swaziland.

The country should also consider transferring disaster risk to appropriate insurance markets. For example, the African Union has established the African Risk Capacity Agency (ARC), in which Swaziland can subscribe to its weather insurance scheme. By 2020, the African Risk Capacity Agency (ARC) aims to reach 30 countries with nearly $1.5 billion (approximately E20.14 billion) of coverage against drought, flood and cyclones.

To ensure that Swaziland creates a favourable socioeconomic environment that can effectively reduce or shield households from disasters, the country needs to address and eradicate the synergistic effects of poverty, HIV, and food insecurity, among other issues.