AD226: eSwatini citizens see more severe weather, but almost half are not aware of climate change

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Sipho Kunene

Over the past decade, eSwatini has experienced more frequent and intense extreme weather events, including an El Niño-induced drought in 2015 and 2016 (Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Center, 2017). 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% 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. 

To confront eSwatini’s weather-related vulnerabilities, the government has established a National Climate Change Committee, developed a National Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, and enacted a National Climate Change Policy (Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, 2016) that aims to support climate-change adaptation programs. Citing the threats of climate change to the country’s food security, water supply, and access to social services, among others, the policy says that “building resilience of her populace and the economy is of utmost priority if (eSwatini) is to achieve her quest towards sustainable development and poverty eradication” (p. 9).

While citizens surveyed by Afrobarometer confirm an increase in severe weather, almost half of them say they have never heard of climate change – a serious deficit if the success of adaptation programs depends on popular support. However, among citizens who are aware of climate change, large majorities say it’s making life worse and should be stopped, and about half believe that ordinary citizens can play a role in doing so.