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Swaziland - Geography

The Kingdom of Swaziland is one of the smallest political entities of continental Africa. Covering an area of only 6,945 square miles, or 17,363 square kilometers (slightly smaller than New Jersey), it is surrounded by South Africa on the north, west, and south and separated from the Indian Ocean on the east by Mozambique.

The geography consists of a surprisingly wide range of ecological zones, from savanna scrub in the east to rain forest in the northwest, with patches of the finbos, or fine bush, which is renowned in South Africa. The mountainous border with Mozambique is harsh and dry, and sharp mountains poke out of the highveld in the west. More than 75 percent of Swazis work in agriculture, mainly at the subsistence level, although the nation is not self-sufficient in food.

The area of the territory is divided into three longitudinal regions. On the west is a mountainous region which approximates to an altitude of over 4,000 feet. The middle veld is about 2,000 feet lower, and the low veld bounded on the east by the Lebombo range attains an average altitude of not over 1,000 feet.

The territory is well watered, the rivers running from west to east: the most northerly is the Komati, then come the Black and the White Umbuluzi, which unite and force their way into Portuguese territory to the north of the Lebombo range, and the numerous tributaries of the Usutu which flows south of the same range.

Swaziland is classified into six Physiographic Zones, taking into account elevation, landforms, geology, soils and vegetation: Highveld, Upper Middleveld, Lower Middleveld, Western Lowveld, Eastern Lowveld and Lubombo Range. The six zones are subdivided according to soil and terrain characteristics.

The Highveld is the upper part of the overall escarpment and consists of a complex of steep slopes between low and high levels, dissected plateaux, plateau remnants and associated hills, valleys and basins. The Upper Middleveld consists of strongly eroded plateau remnants and hills at an intermediate level of overall escarpment, but also contains structurally defined basins in relatively protected positions, which are only weakly eroded, e.g. the Ezulwini Valley. The Lower Middleveld is basically the piedmont zone of the escarpment, characterized by generally strongly eroded moderate foot slopes.

The Lowveld plain consists of largely sedimentary and volcanic Karroo beds versus the igneous and metamorphic rocks of Highveld and Middleveld. The Lowveld is subdivided into the Western Lowveld on sandstone predominantly and the Eastern Lowveld on basalt exclusively. The Lubombo Range is basically an eroded cuesta (tilted plateau) with a steep escarpment on the western side and a gradual dip slope of about 1:20 descending east.

Land degradation is recognised as a very serious problem in Swaziland and a critical issue for continued sustainable social and economic development and poverty alleviation. The most conspicuous form of land degradation in Swaziland is soil erosion (gully, rill and sheet erosion), but also degradation of natural vegetation and forests is commonly observed.

Swazilands natural resources, including game reserves and national parks, are wellmanaged. Wildlife is abundant in all the reserves, and the country has hundreds of bird species. In addition to wildlife, Swaziland has subtropical woodlands and swamps in the east and hardwood forests in the western highlands, at which the logging industry is chipping away.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2017 19:11:14 ZULU