eSwatini: Environmental Law Context Report




Country Context Report



A series of extracts and resources compiled by Tariro Kamuti, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Global Risk Governance Programme, University of Cape Town, with supervision from Amy Sinclair, Managing Editor of the African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII).

19 August 2019


1     Sources of environmental law in Eswatini

A     Domestic constitution and legislation.

B     Domestic executive decision-making

2     Environmental law topics in Eswatini 

A     Energy, minerals and extractives

B     Fisheries

C     Agriculture, plants and forestry

D     Climate change, natural disasters and air quality

E     Wildlife

F      Protected areas

G     African customary law and rights of indigenous peoples


1       Sources of environmental law in Eswatini

A       Domestic constitution and legislation

This is a non-exhaustive list of the most important legislation affecting environmental law issues in Eswatini.

Legislation title and URL

Eswatini Constitution - “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act 2005”

Chapter XII provides for land, minerals, water and the environment with Section 210 stating the following:

  1. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution or any other law, land, minerals and water are national resources.
  2. In the interests of the present and future generations, the State shall protect and make rational use of its land, mineral and water resources as well as its fauna and flora, and shall take appropriate measures to conserve and improve the environment.

Natural Resources Act 1951 (No. 71 of 1951)

“An Act to provide for the conservation and improvement of the natural resources and for other matters incidental thereto. The Act provides for the establishment of the Natural Resources Board, whose functions shall: (a) except in respect of Swazi areas to exercise supervision over natural resources; (b) to promote the conservation and improvement of natural resources; (c) to advice the Minister of Agriculture on the proper conservation, use and improvement of natural resources.”

Water Act 2003 (No. 7 of 2003)

“The Act makes provision for the management and conservation of water resources, including groundwater, in Swaziland, for the grant of water rights, for the establishment of institutions, Water User Associations and Irrigation Districts, the control of pollution, and various other matters relating to water.”

Mines and Minerals Act (No. 4 of 2011)

“An Act to consolidate the law on mining and provide for the management and administration of minerals, mineral oils and incidental matters. This Act, among other things, recognizes the Minerals Management Board as established by section 214 of the Constitution and provides rules relative to exploration and exploitation of minerals in Swaziland. The Act defines functions and powers of the Board, establishes an office of the Commissioner of Mines and defines functions of the Commissioner of Mines. A distinction is made between small-scale and large-scale operations for the purposes of this Act. The Act also concerns trade in minerals.”

Swaziland Environment Authority Act 1992 (No. 15 of 1992)

“An Act to establish the Swaziland Environment Authority. The Act makes provision for the establishment of the Swaziland Environment Authority, whose functions shall be, inter alia, to: (a) establish standards and guidelines relating to all forms of environmental pollution; (b) assist the Minister responsible for environmental protection in formulating policies relating to environmental matters; (c) develop economic measures in order to encourage environmentally sound and sustainable activities; (d) coordinate the activities of all bodies engaged in environmental issues.”

Forest Preservation Act (No. 14 of 1910)

“An Act to make provision for the preservation of trees and forests growing on Government land, and on Swazi nation land constituted under the Concessions Partition Act No. 2811907. This Act places restrictions on the cutting of indigenous or government timber and provides otherwise for the protection of such timber. "Government timber" means any trees and bushes planted under the direction of the Minister on government land or on Swazi nation land and "indigenous timber" means forest trees or their saplings growing on Government land or on Swazi nation land, not planted by human agency. No cutting or interference with land close to where such timber grows shall take place.”

Private Forests Act 1951 (No. 3 of 1951)

“An Act to provide for the better regulation and protection of private forests in Swaziland. The Act draws a distinction between major and minor offences. Major offences are established in article 3 when a person: (a) without the authority of the owner of his agent in or on a private forest: (i) cuts, destroys or removes any tree, timber, other forest produce, or boundary mark or fence; or (ii) lights, rekindles, or adds fuel to any fire.

Environmental Audit, Assessment and Review Regulations, 2000 (L.N. No. 31 of 2000)

“These Regulations set out procedures for the proper preparation of environmental audit reports for existing and proposed projects that may result in the issuing of an environmental compliance certificate. The Swaziland Environment Authority shall: (a) identify and maintain a list of undertakings which cause concern to the Authority or to the public because of their impact on the environment and shall publish the list of these undertakings in its annual report.”


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B       Domestic executive decision-making

  1. Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy[1]

The mission statement says, “To ensure the sustainable development, use and management of natural resources by providing adequate services in water, minerals, energy, surveying, mapping, conveyancing, registration of real rights in land and valuation; to the public and private sector in a transparent manner for the socio-economic benefit of the Kingdom of Swaziland.” The ministry has the following departments, Energy, Valuation, Land Administration, Surveyor General’s Department, Department of Water Affairs (DWA), Geological Survey Conveyancing, Deeds, and Mining Department.

Primary decisionmakers:

  • The Minister: In terms of Section 10 of the Subdivision of Land Act, 1957 the Minister has power to decide appeals by any person whose application for subdivision of land has been refused by the Natural Resources Board. The decision of the minister shall be final.
  • The Natural Resources Board: The board is established in terms of Section 3 of the Natural Resources Act, 1951 to do certain functions related to conservation and improvement of natural resources. In addition to its functions under the said Act, the board decides on applications for subdivisions of land in terms of Section 3 of the Subdivision of Land Act, 1957. Consent for subdivision is given in terms of a certificate under the hand of the Minister. Any person whose application has been refused by the board has the right to appeal to the Minister whose decision shall be final.
  • The Land Control Board: This board is established in terms of Section 3 of the Land Speculation Control Act, 1972. The function of the board is to consider applications for consent in respect of a controlled transaction (as defined under Section 2 of the Act).
  • The Land Control Appeals Board: This board is established in terms of Section 3 of the Land Speculation Control Act, 1972. The function of the board is to determine appeals from persons whose application for consent have been refused by the Land Control Board.
  • The Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal: This tribunal is established in terms of the Farm Dwellers Control Act, 1982. The functions of the tribunal include, inter alia, to hear and determine any appeal by a person aggrieved by any decision of a District Tribunal, to hear an application for renewal of an Agreement for farm dwelling.
  • The District Farm Dwellers Tribunal (for each district): This tribunal is established in terms of Section 7 of the Farm Dwellers Control Act, 1982. The main function of the tribunal is to hear and decide any dispute between an owner and an ‘umnumzane’ concerning the rights and liabilities under an Agreement, attempt conciliation and failing conciliation make such order relating to the dispute, including conciliation of the Agreement and the removal of the ‘umnumzane’ and his dependants from the farm as it deems necessary.
  1. Department of Energy[2]

The Energy Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy is the custodian of policy and operational activities pertaining to the energy sector. Its mission is to effectively manage the national energy resources and to work towards affordable and sustainable energy provision for all the people in the country, whilst ensuring the international competitiveness of the energy sector. Energy is a vital commodity in all sectors of the society, and the specific characteristics of energy supply and consumption patterns have a number of important implications for the development of a country. Energy inputs such as electricity and fuels are essential to generate jobs, industrial activities, transportation, commerce, micro-enterprises and agriculture inputs. Energy is particularly important for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and the Poverty Alleviation Strategy. Access to energy is crucial for the achievement of a number of MDGs including halving the poverty rate, reducing hunger, improving access to safe drinking water, reducing child and maternal mortality, reducing disease such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and environmental sustainability. However, the available energy services are not sufficient to meet the needs of the poor. Therefore, there is need for commitment to increase access to energy sources, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. Biomass energy is unfortunately diminishing whilst a number of people in the rural areas still depend on this resource for cooking and heating purposes. The main sources by which the country meets its energy needs are electricity, coal, petroleum products and renewable and waste. During the Plan period, priority will be given to activities that improve access to energy services, as this will facilitate socio-economic development. These include promoting micro-enterprises, livelihood activities beyond daylight hours, and support to locally owned businesses that will create employment.

  1. Department of Water Affairs[3]

The Department of Water Affairs is established according to the Water Act of 2003 as the secretariat to the National Water Authority. It comprises of three government sections within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy. These sections are:

The Water Resources Section – Responsible for the management and development of surface resources which includes the development of dams, monitoring river flows and the control of water pollution. The Rural Water Supply Section- Responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of rural water schemes. The Hydrogeology and Drilling Section – Responsible for the exploration, drilling and management of groundwater resources.

  1. Ministry of Tourism & Environmental Affairs[4]

The ministry’s mission is, “To promote and support the tourism industry, wildlife conservation within an environmental framework that enhances amenities, conserves culture, sustains forest management, embraces meteorology and addresses climate change challenges to contribute towards sustainable socio-economic development.” They have the following departments, Department of Tourism, Department of Forestry, and Department of Meteorology. They also have the following parastatals, Swaziland Tourism Authority, Swaziland Environment Authority, Swaziland National Trust Commission and Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

  1. Ministry of Agriculture[5]

The ministry has a bold statement that says, “The obligation of the Ministry of Agriculture is to ensure household food security and increased sustainable agricultural productivity through diversification and enhancement of commercial agricultural activities. The Ministry is also responsible for the development and promotion of appropriate technologies and efficient extension services while ensuring stakeholder participation and sustainable development and management of natural resources in the country.”

The ministry has the following specialist departments:

  • Veterinary & Livestock Production Services
  • Agricultural & Extension Services
  • Fisheries Development
  • Land Use Planning Department
  • Economic Planning & Analysis Division
  • Agricultural Research and Specialists
  • Home Economics

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2       Environmental law topics in Eswatini


Introduction to Eswatini

Land Area:                   17,204 km2

Water Area:                 160 km2

Total Area:                  17,364km2 (#153)

Population:                 1,451,428 (#153)

Population Density:   84.37/km2

Government Type:     Absolute Monarchy

GDP (PPP):                  $10.94 Billion

GDP Per Capita:         $9,800

Currency:                    Lilangeni (SZL)

Largest Cities:

  • Manzini (110,537)
  • Mbabane (76,218)

Extract from[6]

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A       Energy, minerals and extractives


What are the Major Natural Resources of Swaziland?

Swaziland (now Eswatini) is a country found in southern Africa. It is considered to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world in terms of natural resources. Due to the wide array of natural resources within Eswatini, its economy is among the most diversified in the region. Despite the diversification of the Eswatini economy, its gross domestic product is among the lowest ranked in the world and in 2017 it was the 153rd highest at $4.41 billion. On the other hand, the Eswatini per capita gross domestic product was only the 113th highest in the world.

Extract from[7]


Energy Policy

The Ministry completed a comprehensive implementation strategy for the National Energy Policy, with the assistance of the European Union (EU), under the European Union Energy Initiative (EUEI) on Poverty Alleviation and Economic Development, in partnership with European Union Partnership Dialogue Facility (EU PDF). This National Energy Policy Implementation Strategy (NEPIS) project commenced in July 2007 and completed in October 2009. The Strategy will outline the concrete actions and clear programmes and methodologies required in the implementation mainly of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Programme. The strategy will also focus on realistic fulfilment of the energy policy statements and elaboration of strategies as well as a time frame for implementing the policies during the short and medium/long term in line with the National Poverty Strategy. The policy recommends programs for liberalising the energy markets and on how the reforms could improve the expansion of access to energy services for the poor. In essence, the policy acknowledges that addressing poverty alleviation for sustainable energy means finding technological and institutional innovations that can lower the costs of obtaining and using energy services, and tailoring these services to the requirements of low income households and communities.



Policy Measures and Institutional Reforms

The Ministry developed new legislations to govern the electricity sector to liberalise the electricity supply industry in Swaziland.

The main activities were:

  • Amendment of the Electricity Act of 1963
  • Formulation of the Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC) Act
  • Formulation of the Energy Regulatory Authority Act.

The three power sector reform legislations were enacted into Acts of Parliament in 2007. The Swaziland Electricity Company Act of 2007 establishes the company under the Companies Act and Performance. The Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC) assumed all duties and powers conferred to Swaziland Electricity Board (SEB), as well as activities thereof, namely: generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity. The Electricity Act of 2007, is an ‘Act to reform and consolidate the law regulating the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity and to provide for matters incidental thereto.’ It amends the Electricity Act of 1963. The Energy Regulatory Authority Act of 2007 establishes the Energy Regulatory Authority and provides for matters incidental to the authority. The regulatory authority is further tasked with enforcing compliance standards, approving tariffs, adjudicating concerns from consumers and promoting economic efficiency in the energy industry.

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B       Fisheries


National Water Policy - UNESCO

The Swaziland National Water Policy (NWP) sets out the vision, intention and strategy of the Kingdom of Swaziland on the development and management of water resources. The NWP is based on the concept enshrined in the National Development Strategy (NDS), whereby the goal is poverty eradication and economic prosperity.

The Government of Swaziland has made water resources to be one of the high priority areas in terms of her goals for social and economic development.  It is therefore of paramount importance for all interventions that are made in the water sector to be based on sound policy and good implementation strategies which reflect the government’s commitment.

Prior to 1967 there was no comprehensive legislation governing water in the country.  Instruments such as the Swaziland Administration Act of 1950 had direct or indirect implications for water resource management.  The Government had an almost exclusive responsibility for water in the country.  However, by then the resource was not considered as finite and limited; hence this posed no problem.  The Water Act of 1967 formalised the sector and in that Act powers to manage and allocate water were vested in a Water Apportionment Board (WAB).  The Minister responsible for water could hear appeals against the decisions of the Board.  He/she had power to over-rule the decision of the WAB.  The Water Act (1967) did not deal with the fragmentation of water among different ministries and departments.  It also did not extend the participation wide enough and most of the authority still rested in government.

A new Water Act was enacted into law in 2003 and is still in force.  This Act seeks to consolidate the administration of water under one ministry.  It also created basin level structures (River Basin Authorities, Irrigation Districts and Water User Associations) with significant powers to manage the resource.  Above these structures is a National Water Authority (NWA), whose role is to supervise the activities of the structures described above and to advise the Minister on policy matters.

A significant development in the country that positively impacted on the water sector was the enactment of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland in 2005.  The Constitution also stipulated provisions related to water.  Section 210 of the Constitution declares water as a national resource and vests the ultimate responsibility for its protection in the State.  Section 215 rules out any private right of property in any water found in Swaziland.  Other sections deal with environmental protection which has implications for water as well as Parliament’s intervention with regards to enactment of laws related to water.

Extract from[8]

SADC Regional Water Policy

The SADC region has 15 major river basins which are transboundary or watercourses shared by two or more countries. They range from the large Congo River Basin (3,800,000 square kilometres), the Zambezi River Basin (1,400,000 square kilometres covering eight SADC Member States) to the Umbeluzi River Basin (5,500 square kilometres) shared by only two countries. Thus, one of the characteristic features in the region is shared watercourse systems, with complex water rights and potential conflicts over utilization of the shared resources. This common heritage also presents tremendous opportunities for cooperation in managing the shared resources for regional economic development and regional integration.

Extract from[9]

Other resources of potential interest:

C       Agriculture, plants and forestry


Swaziland Forest Information and Data

According to the U.N. FAO, 32.7% or about 563,000 ha of Swaziland is forested, according to FAO. Swaziland had 140,000 ha of planted forest. Change in Forest Cover: Between 1990 and 2010, Swaziland lost an average of 4,550 ha or 0.96% per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Swaziland gained 19.3% of its forest cover, or around 91,000 ha. Swaziland's forests contain 22 million metric tons of carbon in living forest biomass. Biodiversity and Protected Areas: Swaziland has some 766 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 0.7% are endemic, meaning they exist in no other country, and 1.6% are threatened. Swaziland is home to at least 2715 species of vascular plants, of which 0.1% are endemic. 0.0% of Swaziland is protected under IUCN categories I-V.

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Forestry

This article highlights the origin of cooperation and integration in the subregion, threats to the region’s forests, the role of the SADC Protocol on Forestry and future challenges to fostering cooperation in the management of the region’s forest resources.

Threats to SADC Forests

SADC has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. The challenge of increasing food requirements has inevitably presented the region with additional challenges of uncontrolled deforestation and cultivation of fragile ecosystems, resulting in soil erosion, desertification, biodiversity loss, decline in agricultural productivity and ensuing socio-economic upheavals (CTA, 2004). For example, in the mid-1990s, annual soil loss was estimated at 50 000 tonnes in Swaziland, 3 million tonnes in Zambia, 96 million tonnes in Zimbabwe’s Save Catchment Area and 300 to 400 million tonnes in South Africa (UNEP, 1994). Swaziland is the only country in the region that has witnessed a positive net gain in forest cover, of 1.2 percent per annum (FAO, 2001). Deforestation in the region is estimated at 2.25 million hectares annually, mainly owing to woodfuel demand and agricultural expansion. Woodfuel is generally collected for domestic use, tobacco curing and brick kilning.

Forest cover loss is exacerbated by inadequate institutional support and shortage of trained personnel, which result in ineffective approaches particularly to the management of natural forests. The adoption of technologies emerging from national and international forestry research institutions such as the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is limited, primarily because of inadequate extension support. The need for effective policies, legislation and institutional structures that recognize forests and wildlife as viable land-use options and that allow community-based management of forest resources has been recognized at the regional level and included in the SADC Protocol on Forestry.

Extracts from[10]


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D       Climate change, natural disasters and air quality


Swaziland Climate Change Policy 2016 – UNDP

Swaziland, like many countries in Africa, has contributed least to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere, and yet, it faces some of the worst consequences and generally has the least capacity to cope with climate change impacts. Swaziland is highly vulnerable and exposed to the impacts of climate change due to her socio-economic and environmental context. Climate variability, including the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, will disproportionately affect the poor. Furthermore, climate change will have adverse effects on water, food, fuel, health, education and access to social services. Thus, building resilience of her populace and the economy is of utmost priority if Swaziland is to achieve her quest towards sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Extract from[11]

UNDP Climate Change Adaptation

The Swaziland Environment Action Plan consists of strategies to address Swaziland’s environmental problems, including climate change. Agriculture forms the base of Swaziland’s economy, as a large part of the manufacturing sector is agro-based. Therefore, diversification of economic activities is necessary if the country is to reduce its level of vulnerability to climate change. The health sector is likely to be adversely affected by climate change due to an increase in vector-borne diseases resulting from increased temperature and precipitation. Water resources and biodiversity have been recognized as resources in Swaziland at risk from climate change. In Swaziland’s First National Communication of 21 May 2002 adaptation options have been identified to address these issues.

Swaziland is the smallest country in the southern hemisphere with a total surface area of 17, 260 km2. It is situated in South Eastern Africa between the 25th and 28th parallels and longitudes 31° and 32° East. It is landlocked with access either via South Africa or Mozambique. There is great variation in Swaziland’s landscapes, geology and climate. The country has been divided into six physiographic zones which vary in terms of the altitude, landforms, climate, geology, soils and vegetation. These zones are the Highveld, Upper Middleveld, Lower Middleveld, Western Lowveld, Eastern Lowveld and the Lubombo Range.

The climate in Swaziland is generally sub-tropical with wet and hot summers and cool and dry winters. However, the country is disposed to natural disasters which disrupt this seasonal pattern. There was a severe drought during the period of 1989 until 1994, and the region has also experienced tropical cyclones and storms. Climate change is likely to affect the occurrence and scale of these disasters and their associated impacts.

Extracts from[12]


E        Wildlife


Swaziland - Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Swaziland is relatively rich in biodiversity. For a country with a land area of 17, 364 km2, Swaziland has an inordinately large plant and animal diversity. More than 14 phyla have been recorded, or suspected to occur. The biodiversity resources of Swaziland have great cultural and economic significance.

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Swaziland National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Despite the small size of the country, Swaziland is topographically and climatically very diverse. This diversity of environmental conditions supports a correspondingly high biological diversity. The primary objective of the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) is to develop a plan of action that will prevent the erosion of Swaziland’s biodiversity. BSAP, as a process, does not stand alone but forms part of the Swaziland Environment Action Plan (SEAP).

Extracts from[13]


SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement (1999)

Wildlife resources in Southern Africa have the potential to affect the region’s economic development and environmental protection – two primary concerns of SADC. Therefore, SADC passed its Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement on 18th August 1999 to establish a common framework for conservation and sustainable use of wildlife in the region. In signing the Protocol, Member States agree to policy, administrative, and legal measures for promoting conservation and sustainable wildlife practices within their jurisdictions. Member States agree to collaborate with one another on common approaches for achieving the goals of international agreements on wildlife. The Protocol advocates Member States harmonise legal instruments for wildlife, establish management programmes for wildlife, and create a regional database of wildlife status and management. It also establishes institutional arrangements for the Protocol’s implementation, specifying committees and units, a schedule of meetings, and each division’s functions.

Extracts from[14]


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F        Protected areas


Swaziland Protected Areas

Despite the global significance of its biodiversity, Swaziland’s formal Protected Area (PA) estate is comprised of relatively small and vulnerable PAs, covering only 3.9% of the country and inadequately representing the countries varied ecosystems. There is therefore a need to expand the PA estate, while strengthening PA management competencies. This will in turn require the participation of a broad range of stakeholders, including private landholders, local communities and the tourism industry, to establish new State PA, private and community managed reserves. A landscape approach is needed, to strategically place these different PAs in proximity to one another, and manage land in immediately adjacent areas to reduce threats to biodiversity and improve connectivity between the PA sites.

Extract from[15]


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G       African customary law and rights of indigenous peoples


Fostering indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa

Centuries of discrimination and exclusion have not diminished indigenous peoples’ collective determination for the recognition of their human rights. “The adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by world leaders at the General Assembly in 2007, fruit of over two decades of negotiations with governments and indigenous representatives, has reinforced the human rights machinery which responds to aspirations for justice. To better understand the practicalities of this new instrument, a group of indigenous leaders from Africa converged in Bamako, Mali, for a regional workshop from 20-23 July, which analysed the links between the UN Declaration and existing regional legally binding instruments. Particular attention was given to the issue of women’s rights.

Extract from[16]

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Swazi Culture and Biological Diversity

For a country with a land area of 17,364 km2, Swaziland is relatively rich in biodiversity with an inordinately large plant and animal diversity. The biodiversity resources of Swaziland have great cultural and economic significance. The presence of indigenous biological resources and their diversity provides a wide range of direct benefits because they generate products which are used for subsistence income and employment purposes. In addition, the diverse flora and fauna of Swaziland has variety of recreational and aesthetic values. The Swazi culture is deeply dependent on biological diversity both for everyday life and for various traditional ceremonies practised annually. Cultural and traditional use of biodiversity includes the reed dance, the Kingship ceremony, traditional attire, traditional hunting, and burial rituals.

Extract from[17]

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[1] Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, available at accessed on 07 August 2019.

[6] Swaziland, available at accessed on 10 August 2019.

[7] What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Swaziland? available at accessed on 10 August 2019.

[8] National Water Authority (2009). National Water Policy. Swaziland Government. available at

[9] Southern African Development Community. (2005). Regional Water Policy, available at

[10] Lloyd Mubaiya, The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Forestry – can it stop the mounting threats to the region’s forests? Available at

[12] UNDP Climate Change Adaptation- Swaziland, available at

[13] Swaziland National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan available at

[16] Fostering indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa available at

[17] Swaziland’s Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014, available at