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Program commenced:   1988

Total number of placements: 126 (as of 17 August, 2011)

Number of current placements: 9 (as of 17 August, 2011)

AVI Programs: Volunteer Program, Swaziland Technical Assistance Workers Program

Swaziland is the smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere and the second smallest in Africa (after Gambia). However, Swaziland still offers a variety of geographic features, climate zones and biodiversity not possessed by many far larger countries.

Swaziland became a British protectorate before regaining its independence in 1968. Since then Swaziland went through a period of significant development. However, much of the gains have been reversed by the HIV epidemic that has gripped the small country.

Contact our Southern Africa program office

Development Issues

Socio-economic issues
Health issues
Environmental issues

Socio-economic issues

In human development terms, Swaziland had, until recently, steady growth and one of the best results of post-colonial Africa. This was well illustrated by its ranking on the Human Development Index where in the 1990s it climbed to 112th out of the 175 countries then surveyed and the third highest position of sub-Saharan Africa.

However, by 2004 Swaziland had experienced a rapid fall in human development. Poverty is widespread in Swaziland with 69 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Further, erratic weather conditions, an over-reliance on maize and failure to grow drought-resistant crop varieties have all contributed to the sharp rise in the price of food in Swaziland. It is now beyond the budgets of many families thanks to rising unemployment and the general economic slowdown in Swaziland.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following sites: 
Human Development Reports page on HDI statistics

Health issues

A still-emerging problem which is a major factor in the fall in human and economic development of recent years is that of HIV/AIDS. Swaziland currently has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world at 33.4 per cent (of all adults aged 15-49). That corresponds to 220,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is also much to blame for the rise in the under five mortality rate estimated to be 156 per 1,000 live berths in 2004. In 1999, His Majesty King Mswati III declared HIV/AIDS a national disaster.

Swaziland is also facing a crisis of high rates of unwanted pregnancies and other sexually transmitted infections. Given that youth aged below 24 years in Swaziland account for over 50 per cent of the total population, and that by age 17, the vast majority of youth in Swaziland have experienced sexual intercourse (mostly in unstable relationships outside marriage without contraception), this age group is most vulnerable.

The reduction of life expectancy, diminished productivity, and increasing burdens on social welfare will all have negative impacts on development gains. Further, given Swaziland's acute shortage of high quality human capital, the economic impact of AIDS could be even more severe than already seen.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following sites: 
UNAIDS page on Swaziland

Environmental issues

At present three main environmental issues can be singled out as requiring attention. Land degradation is a major issue in Swaziland given its territorial restrictions. Swazi National Land (communal land) amounts to 75 per cent of the total land area and it is estimated that 75 per cent of this suffers from degradation. The causes for land degradation in Swaziland are numerous. Over-grazing is a major cause; cattle populations have been rising at 2.5 per cent per annum and obviously places increased stress on grazing land. Continuous farming is that other major cause of degradation since it restricts regeneration of nutrients and structure in the soil.

Loss of ecosystems is another major environmental issue in Swaziland. Two major causes are urbanisation and increased encroachment of the agriculture industry. Deforestation is one manifestation of such loss of ecosystems and is further hampered by the use of wood as fuel. The aquatic ecosystem is under stress from the use of pesticides and increasingly, chemical pollutants from industries in Swaziland.

A further environmental issue is Swaziland's waste management - or more precisely lack of waste management. This is a result of both lack of awareness in the country of correct waste practices but also largely due to the fact that Swaziland has insufficient infrastructure for sustainable waste management.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following site: 
Swaziland Environment Authority Website (Click on the link, 'Environment Report' to the left of the page to view a comprehensive report on Swaziland's environment.)