Wednesday, 10 April 2013

So where is Swaziland anyway?

The flower of the Frangipangi tree.

It’s the smallest country in the southern hemisphere, 17,000 square kilometres (or 10,563 square miles); about the size of Wales.  It is landlocked and shares borders with South Africa and Mozambique. You want more specific? Latitude 31 degrees, 30 minutes east of Greenwich and longitude 26 degrees, 30 minutes south of the equator.
Geography lesson: The country is divided into four topography and climatic regions. 1. There is the mountainous Highveld to the west with rivers, gorges, waterfalls and mountains up to 1,800m above sea level.  Here you find the warm wet summers and dry winters when the night temperatures can drop to snowfall degrees.  Not suitable for agriculture and mostly forestry generates the income here. The biggest town in the area is Mbabane and another landmark one is Piggs Peak.  2. The Middleveld has lush fertile valleys and a warm climate and here agriculture generates the income. This is where the farm that I will be writing about is situated, near a village called Malkerns, but the biggest town in the area is Manzini and the industrial area Matsapha where you land if you are flying in on an international flight.  3. To the east of Swaziland is the lowveld which covers the largest part of the country. This is sub-tropical area, also the malaria area, drought-prone with the typical African bush vegetation. Here you find the big game parks and the indigenous fauna and flora. Agriculture is limited to sugar cane and there are some big mills in the area. 4. The smallest region is the subtropical Lubombo area which borders on Mozambique. The Lubombo mountain range is the main feature her. There is mixed farming in the area.
The Swazi people:  There are a million Swazis living in the kingdom with about a quarter living in the urban areas. The country is ruled by a monarch, King Mswati III (aka Ngwenyama or Lion) and his mother the Queen Mother (aka Ndlovukazi or She-Elephant). Swaziland was once ruled by the British but became independent in 1967 when the previous king, King Sobhuza II received international recognition as a king. 
Latest statistics tell us that 41% of the population are affected by HIV/AIDS. The birth-rate is down and the death rate has doubled between the years 1997 and 2007. At the same time there has been a shift in the social structure with an increasing number of child-headed households emerging as parents succumb to the AIDS pandemic. 
The language they speak here is called siSwati and for the people in the urban areas English is a second language. In the rural areas English is a foreign language, spoken and understood by few.  
The national currency is called Lilangeni and the plural is Emalangeni. It is on a par with the South African Rand (ZAR) and both currencies can be used as payment in the kingdom. 


Rhino in the Hlane Game Reserve