|Sugar cane production has become Swaziland's biggest industry as large-scale producers have been joined by hundreds of small-scale farmers. Much of this growth can be attributed to government promotion of sugar cane farming. While this growth has come at the expense of natural flora and fauna, it has brought significant benefits for the eastern province of Lubombo.|
Sugar cane plantations are found primarily in northeastern Swaziland where temperatures are optimal. However, this region is also characterized by erratic rainfall with periods of drought; precipitation provides only 25 per cent of the water sugar cane crops need. To meet the sugar cane industry's remaining water requirements, several dams have been constructed along major rivers, including the Sand River and Mnjoli Dams. These satellite images, from 1979 and 2006, show the dams and how the area devoted to sugar cane plantations has increased over time.
Sugar cane exports bring in roughly US$1 500 million annually to Swaziland. Lubombo Province, in particular, relies heavily on income from sugar cane as well as social services that the industry provides, including medical care, education, housing, and access to clean water. Yet fluctuating sugar prices have prompted the Swazi government to promote the production of other crops. Such a transition, however, is far easier for small-scale farmers than for large-scale producers with extensive plantations.
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