Status of the country’s biodiversity and factors threatening biodiversity
Over the last century, Swaziland’s biodiversity has been markedly reducedOver the last century, Swaziland’s biodiversity has been markedly reduced. 89 species of vertebrates and 305 species of plants are listed in national .
Swaziland’s biodiversity is under pressure from a number of factors, many of them a result of human action.
- Population pressure: A rapidly growing population growth exerting pressure on land. This includes an increasing demand for human settlement.
- Land use change: Substitution of natural habitat by other systems of production and land use is another concern. This results in loss of habitat and/or fragmentation. An example here is conversion to sugar cane production.
- Unsustainable resource use: Over-exploitation of communal lands, including unsustainable extraction of fuel wood, and other products is a major concern. Communal grazing lands are largely degraded due to stocking rates being above carrying capacity in most areas. Over harvesting of wood for fuel as well as timber for construction and handcraft is another issue of concern. Bark stripping for medicinal use is another factor.
- Poverty and lack of alternative sources of livelihood: The country’s poor are characterized by a range of deprivations including lack of access to basic education and health care, vulnerability to ill health, economic deprivation, displacement, vulnerability to disasters, exposure to ill treatment by organs of state and society, and, powerlessness to influence key decisions affecting their lives. In many cases they then turn to biodiversity which offers opportunity for income generation with minimum capital requirements without the necessary measures to ensure sustainable use.
- Loss of traditional values and practices: The Swazi culture is deeply rooted in the concept of buntfu which involves elements of respect for self and consideration of the environment and others. Swazis have traditionally practiced sustainable use of their resources and had in place traditional practices for conservation which were generally followed because this was the norm. These practices have now either been forgotten or, are just being ignored. Among the causes of this is a shift to a cash economy resulting in dominance of an individualistic outlook. Loss of many cultural practices which facilitated transfer of knowledge between generations is another factor. The result of this has been loss of Swazi traditional practices aimed at conservation of biodiversity.
- Poor enforcement of laws and regulations: Whilst a range of legislation has been put in place with intent to protect the environment and biodiversity, sub-optimal enforcement makes it ineffective to ensure sustainable management of biodiversity. Examples here include legislation aimed at controlling veld burning, crop cultivation and destruction of vegetation along rivers as well as the harvesting of plant material that are all not strictly enforced.
- Alien invasive species: Alien invasive species are species that have been introduced, intentionally or otherwise into a new environment where they are able to grow and multiply aggressively. Having no natural enemies in the new area confers an additional advantage. Consequently, they lead to a range of effects including alteration of the landscape and riparian vegetation, decline of water resources, outcompeting native species for resources- in the case of plants, these include water, nutrients etc. Some of these species also exude anti-growth factors which inhibit growth of other plants around them.
Important species are:
- Chromolaena odorata (Sandanezwe) which occurs almost throughout the country but particular areas of concern include the Lubombo plateau, the northern part of the country including Ntfonjeni, eNdzingeni and surrounding areas. The extent of infestation has been estimated at 33%,
- Lantana camara (bukhwebeletane) also throughout the country especially the middleveld. The extent of infestation has been estimated at 47% of the country,
- Solanum mauritanium (gwayana): The extent of infestation has been estimated at 17%.