Farmer Perceptions and Responses to Soil Degradation in Swaziland
Soil degradation is globally concerning due to its adverse effects on the environment and agricultural production. Much of Swaziland is at risk from degradation. This paper assesses farmer perceptions and responses to soil degradation in 2002 and 2014, focusing on two land uses that underpin rural livelihoods: arable land and rangeland areas. It uses repeat household survey and semi-structured interviews, in two case study chiefdoms in the country’s middleveld (KaBhudla and Engcayini) in the first longitudinal study of its kind. We find that observations of land degradation are perceived mainly through changes in land productivity, with chemical degradation occurring predominantly on arable land, and physical degradation and erosion mainly in rangeland areas. Changes in rainfall are particularly important in determining responses. Whilst perceptions of the causes and impacts of degradation largely concur with the scientific literature, responses were constrained by poor land availability, shorter and more unpredictable cropping seasons due to changing rains, and low awareness, access to or knowledge of agricultural inputs. We suggest that sustainable arable land management can be enhanced through: improved access to alternative sources of water; use of management practices that retain soil and moisture; and greater access to agricultural inputs and capacity building to ensure their appropriate use. We suggest collaborative management for: settlement planning that integrates soil conservation; livestock management such as stocking levels and rotational grazing could improve land quality in rangeland areas. Together, these approaches can help land users to better manage change.
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