The Kingdom of Swaziland is a landlocked and mountainous country, located between the republics of South Africa and Mozambique. It has a population of about 1 million people located on approximately 17,400 square kilometres of land. Although Swaziland is classified as a lower middle-income country, it currently faces challenges similar to low-income economies. Swaziland ranks 141 out of 187 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index. Forty percent of Swazis live below the poverty line, surviving on less than US1.25 per day.
Swaziland is vulnerable to natural disasters, particularly drought in the eastern regions, and occasionally severe flooding in the north. Although 70 percent of Swazis rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods, consecutive years of drought have undermined crop production, particularly maize. Results of the annual assessment by the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Swazi VAC) indicate that 116,000 people (10 percent of the population) faced a food deficit during the 2012/2013 lean season. This is a 30 percent increase on the 2011/12 figure of 89,000. This has serious implications for food access, as food prices are likely to remain high. Factors contributing to low production include poor rainfall and lack of access to farming inputs such as fertilizers and tractor hire.
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. However, since then, the average harvest 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 low implementation of improved agricultural practices. Fortunately, at about 2.2 percent of GDP in 2010/11, government spending on social protection programs in Swaziland is higher than the average of 1 to 2 percent spent by most developing countries.
Swaziland faces a dual epidemic of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), recording the world's highest prevalence rates for both diseases. Currently, 42 percent of pregnant women attending antenatal care centres are HIV positive, while Swaziland’s first Demographic Health Survey (2007) indicated that 26 percent of the population aged between 15 and 49 years are HIV positive. In addition, an estimated 80 percent of TB patients are also co-infected with HIV. Swaziland has made significant strides towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care for women and children. HIV testing among pregnant women increased from 39% in 2005 to 83% in 2010. Moreover, in 2011, more than 95% of pregnant women living with HIV (PWLHIV) received antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). Abject poverty combined with the high HIV and TB prevalence rates contribute to Swaziland’s weak economic performance and also impact negatively on food security.