Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) Executive Director Dr Thula Sizwe Dlamini has expressed gratitude towards the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its support in developing and growing the knowledge economy in Swaziland.

He says without the support of UNDP and the government of Swaziland, the studies conducted by SEPARC would not be the success they were turning out to be. On the other hand, the UNDP acknowledges that investment in generating evidence for policy and programming decision making can provide better insights to sustainable development implications.

UNDP Programme Specialist Sithembiso Gina says policy research is indispensable for countries, given that it assists policymakers in formulating decisions that provide a conducive environment for knowledge production, technological development and innovation-led growth.

Speaking during the dissemination of the findings of a study on the ‘Socioeconomic Impact of the 2015/16 El Nino Induced Drought in Swaziland’ at the Royal Villas, she noted that the study interrogates the shock of the disaster social issues and macroeconomic stability for deepened sustainable path options.

The study was commissioned by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and conducted by the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC), with support from UNDP.

“UNDP remains committed as a knowledge broker and to working with the government of Swaziland, non-governmental organisations, and academia, including traditional authorities to help the kingdom build community resilience and invest in policy research and analysis for better informed sustainable development,” added Gina.

“We look forward to the recommendations (of the study) informing reform in the various sectors for collective rebound towards sustainable development.”

Principal Secretary in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office Khangeziwe Mabuza also extended government’s appreciation towards UNDP for supporting the partnership between NDMA and SEPARC, which has enabled the country to identify and quantify the social and economic losses that were suffered as a result of the 2015/16 drought.

She noted that disaster losses were disproportionately higher in resource-strapped poorer countries such as Swaziland, hence countries across the globe have to be concerned about the potential losses and damages resulting from disasters.

Mabuza said the findings of the study would significantly contribute to the country’s future risk assessment and contingency planning endeavours. In addition, she said the study would further strengthen national efforts on building and enhancing resilience by specifically contributing to the improvement of disaster losses and risk knowledge.

“The study will help us in deciding how better to invest resources in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, as well as risk-proofing public and private investment on the above, and guiding national strategies on reducing, retaining and transferring risk,” she added.

The PS further noted that the assessment should also help government and its agencies in strengthening the development of national disaster loss and damages databases, as well as enhance and influence risk informed policy options within the context of the national development framework.

Recommendations for future resilience

Given the findings, the study proposes the following set of recommendations:

 Revise and integrate all aspects of disaster mitigation to all policies in Swaziland.

 Encourage employment and income generating activities across the four regions of Swaziland to enable the majority, if not all households, to earn their livelihoods and restore dignity. Focus on increasing investments into income generating activities, especially in agriculture, agro-processing, agri-information communications technology (agri-ICT), and firming up the extension system.

 Strengthen and expand the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan to other regions through supporting the development of income generating activities among the poorest in Swaziland.

 Deliberately target women in all agricultural and rural development programmes especially in rural areas where women take care of children, people living with disabilities, and the elderly.

 Encourage commercialisation and value-addition in rural households.

 Enable development of smallholder agriculture production by addressing issues of land under-utilisation, inappropriate land use and management of rangelands.

 Use the drought as an opportunity to learn and grow. The country could consider taking stock of its resource-base and use it to make the appropriate adjustments to make the best use of all available resources. Use lessons learnt from the 2015/16 drought as a springboard for further action, including revolutionising the food production system and fast tracking the commercialisation of subsistence producers. Recovery should also be an important aspect of disaster management to restore life to what it was before the drought.

 Conduct a comprehensive investigation of the sources of water and their regenerative capacities, particularly sources of water like the Mbabane River that were able to sustain themselves throughout the drought.

 Increase investment into a dam that will supply Mbabane with water. Such a dam should have a water storage capacity that will enable supply for a minimum of three years to Mbabane during a drought event. It is no longer sustainable to supply water to a big and a growing city like Mbabane and Ezulwini using a reservoir like Hawane. Mbabane and the rest of cities and towns in Swaziland need sustainable water infrastructure that will efficiently harvest, store, and distribute water in all climatic seasons. Urban and rural developers in the country should consider exploring underground water extraction to supply water to entire cities and towns especially in areas with abundant underground water aquifers.

 Increase water storage/harvesting between rivers and dams in Swaziland for smallholder agriculture, and for domestic water supply.

 Re-visit existing water treaties on Transboundary Rivers and dams to encourage water harvesting for storage purposes at the local level and to put the interests of Swaziland first, especially in the wake of the 2015/16 drought.

 Enact legislation that encourages the creation or construction of disaster resilient buildings.

 Impose penalties on people who misuse water. Consider equipping the Water Act of 2003 and other legal instruments that give rights to access to water resources in the country with penalties. That at the helm of the drought some households and businesses were using SWSC water to wash cars, and for irrigating landscapes is an insignia that the current water policies leave it to the consumer to police its usage.

 Consider options for viable energy options/power plants that can make Swaziland energy independent. It takes 5 – 10 years to set up cost-effective and efficient power plants, and experience from 2015/16 drought demonstrated that hydropower is getting less and less reliable. The country needs a good energy mix and the time to act is now!

 Form a consultative group on weather and climate forecasting at the national level so that information on the probability of disasters is developed on time and shared widely in the economy to reduce shocks in capital projects and operating costs.

 Emphasise and promote coordinated planning among all stakeholders in order to enable a proactive disaster mitigation and response environment in all levels of disaster management in the country.

 Establish a consultative group on environmental (flora and fauna) management during a drought with a focus on issues of protection, maintenance, disasters, and state of emergencies.

 Consider strengthening and expanding the minimum standards for establishments operating in the tourism sector to address issues of disaster preparedness and adaptation.

 Upgrade the Meteorology Department in terms of human resources, equipment/up-to-date software, and infra- and techno-structure. Institutional capacity to deal with droughts, hailstorms, and floods is lacking. The continuation of high frequency weather updates in all local media platforms, especially on the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) are important. In addition, system upgrades are required for a broader forecast to strengthen developmental plans. The department needs specialised computer infrastructure to perform this kind of work.

 Develop policies that encourage the use of agricultural biotechnology and the harmonisation of policies between Swaziland and neighbouring countries to enable the country to have access to drought-tolerant germplasm developed elsewhere in the region and beyond.

 Capacitate Agricultural Marketing Boards on their role during state of emergencies.

 Revisit all instruments meant to regulate the importation of food with a focus on making it clear as to what happens during national disasters like droughts, floods etc.