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In Numbers

The Mbabane Hills is a trans-boundary water source area that straddles Swaziland and Mpumalanga. It supplies water to Nelspruit, Standerton and Ermelo in Mpumalanga as well as Swaziland and Mozambique.

Size: 1 039 211 ha

The Mbabane Hills spans 1 039 211 hectares. The largest portion falls within Swaziland (779 408 ha). Approximately 259 803 ha is situated in Mpumalanga.

Main Rivers

The Usutu, Pongola, Inkomati and Lusushwana rivers a flow from Mbabane Hills.

Did You Know?

  • The Inkomati River flows through South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.
  • Mbabane Hills is named after Swaziland’s capital and largest city.
  • More than 60% of South Africa’s river run-off is shared with other countries.


Land Use (in %)

  • Mining 0.08%
  • Wetlands 1.71%
  • Urban 2.76%
  • Cultivation (irrigated) 2.52%
  • Waterbodies 0.19%
  • Plantation/Woodlot 29.04%
  • Cultivation (dryland) 2.73%
  • Natural 60.97%

3% Protected Areas

Only 3% of Mbabane Hills is formally protected. This includes a small portion of Kruger National Park, three provincial nature reserves and two local nature reserves (Barberton and Mountainlands Nature Reserve).

  • 3
  • 2

Threat Status

  • River Ecosystems
  • Wetland Ecosystems

River Ecosystems

Approximately 61% of Mbabane Hills is in natural condition. Nevertheless, 82% of its river ecosystems are endangered.

  • 6% Critically Endangered
  • 82% Endangered
  • 12% Vulnerable
  • 12% Least Threatened

Wetland Ecosystems

Up to 58% of wetland ecosystems are critically endangered.

  • 58% Critically Endangered
  • 37% Endangered
  • 5% Vulnerable
  • 5% Least Threatened


More than 60% of South Africa’s river run-off is shared with other countries. This stresses the need for cooperation and collaboration between neighbouring countries. Can you think of any provisions in international law, regional treaties or agreements between South Africa and Swaziland that can ensure the healthy functioning of Mbabane Hills?

Interactive Map

South Africa has 22 water source areas spread across five provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo). The total size of our water source areas is 12.32 million hectares. A number of these areas extend and are shared with Lesotho and Swaziland; approximately 1.91 million hectares in Lesotho and 0.93 million hectares in Swaziland.

The total volume of water supplied by these areas per year is approximately 2 457 million cubic metres. The greatest volume of recharge is generated by the Southern Drakensberg, followed by the Eastern Cape Drakensberg and the Boland Mountains.