Wildlife was in decline in Zimbabwe while the resource was being managed centrally by the State in terms of conventional protectionist legislation. The legislation was changed in 1960 and this led to cautious institutional reforms, whereby responsibility for wildlife was gradually devolved to landholders who were encouraged to use it profitably. This was achieved without the State abrogating its ultimate responsibility for the wellbeing of the resource.
The CAMPFIRE programme was a response to the particular requirements of communally managed wild resources. Successful implementation required that appropriate institutions were in place. These allowed the peasants a meaningful say in the management of their wildlife and permitted them to use it profitably to generate a sufficient incentive to persuade them to conserve the resource on their land. As on large-scale commercial ranches, socio-economic factors proved more significant than ecological considerations in preserving wildlife on communally occupied land that is representative of much of Africa and the Third World.