Swaziland's maize harvest this year was estimated at 76,000 tons, which is low compared last year (84,686 mt), and inadequate to meet the national cereal requirement of 115,000 mt this year. This is largely attributed to poor rainfall performance during the 2011/2012 farming season and the reduction in land area planted with maize. Preliminary results of the 2012 Swaziland vulnerability assessment indicate that about 116,000 people, or 11 percent of the population, will experience food shortages in the lean season before the next harvest in May 2013.
Food insecurity in Swaziland is aggravated by three critical factors impacting on the ability of households to provide for their nutritional needs: HIV, unequal gender relations and deepening poverty levels.
Maize production in Swaziland has been declining steadily for the past decade. Up until 2000, Swaziland was routinely harvesting more than 100,000 tons of maize but, since then, the average has dropped to some 70,000 tons. Factors contributing to this decline include erratic weather, high fuel and input costs, the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS, and a decline in the use of improved agricultural practices and inputs.
The HIV prevalence rate is the highest in the world. Currently, 42 percent of pregnant women attending ante-natal care centres are HIV positive, while Swaziland’s first Demographic Health Survey (2007) indicates that 26 percent of the population aged between 15 and 49 years are HIV positive. The impact of HIV/AIDS has been particularly hard on Swazi children.There are more than 80,000 orphans in the country and children head 15 percent of total Swazi households.
According to the 2008 National Nutrition Survey, 40 percent of Swazi children below the age of 5 show signs of stunting, 7 percent are underweight and one percent is wasted. The mortality rate of children under 5 years of age is 167 per 1,000 live births, up 37 percent since 1997. Abject poverty combined with the high HIV prevalence rate contribute to Swaziland’s weak economic performance and also impact negatively on food security.