Swaziland’s seasons

Swaziland’s seasons

This is the southern hemisphere, so Swazi weather is opposite the UK’s and January is mid-summer. Rain falls mostly during the summer months, often in the form of thunderstorms, and winter is the dry season.

The land is highest in the west and falls away going east towards the Mozambique border. The highest point is Mount Emlembe (1,862 m) which is part of the Drakensburg Mountains and the lowest point is where the Usuthu River enters Mozambique at a modest 21 m above sea level.

Although Swaziland as a whole has a typical subtropical climate, the mountainous west is much cooler (often <10°C in winter, around 20°-25° in summer) while the flat eastern lowveld enjoys warmer days between 17° and  40° C. Winter frost along river courses throughout the country is not uncommon, with morning temperatures dropping to zero even in the lowveld.

Rain in the west is around 2m per year, heavily influenced by moist air from the Indian Ocean less than 50 miles to the east; whereas in the east less than a quarter that figure falls. The altitude has a similar effect upon temperature. The mountains are always pleasant whereas the low veld can top 40°C. Snow is rare but there have been three snowfalls in Mbabane since 1999. Here are the averages in Mbabane, the capital:-

Spring: September – October: 18 °C (64.4 °F)
Summer: November – March: 20 °C (68 °F)
Autumn: April – May: 17 °C (62.6 °F)
Winter: June – August: 13 °C (55.4 °F)

Crops

The majority of the country is subsistence farming, and rain-fed maize is the primary crop which is used to make a porridge called “phutu” or “pap” [“sudza” in South Africa]. In years when the rains fail, famine is close behind. Many of the small subsistence farms also grow cotton as a cash crop. And almost all family farms have some cattle too.

Sugar is the largest single foreign exchange earner in Swaziland, most of it going to the US and EU. There are three huge estates (all irrigated) and each with a sugar factory on site, all of which also take sugar cane from smallholders. The sugar industry is a massive employer.

Along the western border there are also several large citrus estates growing oranges, grapefruit, and limes. The final part of the jigsaw is pineapple production from the middle-veld valley. The better fruit is exported, while fruit of lower quality is either canned or sold domestically.