Small, but spectacularly beautiful, the Kingdom of Swaziland is a landlocked country, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique. The western half of the Kingdom is temperate and mountainous, descending to a lowveld region to the east that can reach 40 degrees during hot, wet summers. The eastern border with Mozambique and South Africa is dominated by the escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains.
Traditionally the Swazi have been subsistence farmers and herders, but most now mix these activities with work in the growing urban formal economy and in government. Swaziland’s economy is dominated by the service industry, manufacturing and agriculture. About 75 percent of the population is employed in subsistence farming, and 60 percent of the population lives on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day.
But Swaziland’s greatest challenge comes from the HIV/AIDS pandemic with the country being plagued with the world’s highest HIV infection rate, and life expectancy having fallen from 58 to 33 years. It is estimated that there are more than 70 000 AIDS orphans in Swaziland. The United Nations Development Programme has warned that if the pandemic continues unabated, the ‘longer term existence of Swaziland as a country will be seriously threatened’.