Sustainability Research Institute

Understanding land use, livelihoods and social-ecological change in rural Swaziland

This project runs from 2014-2017 is supported by a Philip Leverhulme Prize in Geography, awarded to Professor Lindsay C. Stringer in 2013. The research is built upon collaboration with Professor Absalom Manyatsi, University of Swaziland (UNISWA), and involves four Research Assistants from UNISWA’s Faculty of Agriculture, as well as a Post-doctoral Research Assistant based in the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds.



The research team

The project extends previous research undertaken in Swaziland  in order to:

a) Generate a new longitudinal dataset on land use and land management practices in Swaziland’s middleveld;

b) Investigate the factors that have facilitated and inhibited agricultural production, sustainable livelihoods and sustainable land management practices over the past 12 years; and

c)  Explore innovative mechanisms of knowledge exchange that can engage land users in research on sustainable land management.

Extending knowledge in these areas is vital in order to understand how rural households can move towards more sustainable land use and land management practices, as well as food security and more resilient agricultural livelihoods over the longer term. It also seeks to improve awareness and uptake of research findings.

Vegetable garden in Engcayini
Cattle on the road

The research uses multi-scale, mixed-methods approaches and datasets, including household questionnaire surveys, semi-structured interviews, and participatory methods such as transect walks and seasonal calendars, in two chiefdoms in Swaziland’s middleveld: KaBhudla and Engcayini; interviews with policy makers in government ministries and departments that focus on land and climate related issues; and policy discourse analysis.

Lindsay with one of the questionnaire respondents in Engcayini
Lindsay with the former Chief’s wife and her grandson in KaBhudla

Working with Research Assistants from UNISWA brings an important capacity building element to the work, allowing two-way learning between UK and Swaziland researchers. The project will produce academic journal papers that advance debates on sustainable land management, rural livelihoods, food security and climate change. We will also develop briefing notes in order to share the research findings with policy makers and other decision makers. Innovative mechanisms for knowledge exchange at a community level will be developed during the course of the research through community consultation meetings and discussions.

Relevant references

Outputs will be added to the website as the research progresses. Relevant references based on earlier work on the research topic are provided below.

Stringer LC 2009 Land degradation policy in Swaziland: testing the orthodoxies. Land Use Policy 26 (2) 157-168, doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2008.01.008;

Stringer LC, Dyer JC, Reed MS, Dougill AJ, Twyman C, Mkwambisi DD. 2009 Adaptations to climate change, drought and desertification: insights to enhance policy in southern Africa Environmental Science and Policy 12 (7) 748-765, doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2009.04.002;

Stringer LC, Reed MS. 2007. Land degradation assessment in southern Africa: integrating local and scientific knowledge bases. Land Degradation and Development 18 (1) 99-116, doi: 10.1002/ldr.760;

Stringer LC, Twyman C, Thomas DSG. 2007 Learning to reduce degradation on Swaziland’s arable land: enhancing understandings of Striga asiatica. Land Degradation and Development 18 (2) 163-177, doi: 10.1002/ldr.768;

Stringer, LC Twyman C, Thomas DSG. 2007. Combating land degradation through participatory means: the case of Swaziland Ambio 36(5): 387-393, doi: 10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[387:CLDTPM]2.0.CO;2;

Stringer LC, Thomas DSG, Twyman C. 2007. From global politics to local land users: applying the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Swaziland. Geographical Journal 173 (2):129-142, doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2007.00226.x;

Stringer LC, Reed MS, Dougill A, Seely MK and Rokitzki M. 2007. Implementing the UNCCD: participatory challenges Natural Resources Forum 31 198-211, doi: 10.1111/j.1477-8947.2007.00154.x