, Volume 18, Issue 10, pp 2563-2583

Community based natural resource management in Zimbabwe: the experience of CAMPFIRE

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Abstract

Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is a long-term programmatic approach to rural development that uses wildlife and other natural resources as a mechanism for promoting devolved rural institutions and improved governance and livelihoods. The cornerstone of CAMPFIRE is the right to manage, use, dispose of, and benefit from these resources. Between 1989 and 2006, CAMPFIRE income, mostly from high valued safari hunting, totalled nearly USD$ 30 million, of which 52% was allocated to sub-district wards and villages for community projects and household benefits. Whilst a number of assumptions underlying the success of CAMPFIRE as an innovative model for CBNRM have yet to be met, CAMPFIRE confirms the concept that devolving responsibility and accountability for natural resource management can be highly effective for the collective and participatory management of such resources. Elephant numbers in CAMPFIRE areas have increased and buffalo numbers are either stable or decreased slightly during the life of the programme. However, offtake quotas for these two species have increased with a concomitant decline in trophy quality. Although the amount of wildlife habitat diminished after 1980, following the commencement of CAMPFIRE the rate of habitat loss slowed down and in some specific instances was even reversed. More recently there has been increased pressure on habitats and other natural resources as a consequence of deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country. Where devolution has been successful, promising results have been achieved and the recent acceptance and implementation of direct payments to communities is probably the most significant development since 2000. That this has happened can be attributed to CAMPFIRE enabling communities to maximize their roles within the existing set of rules, and by so doing, allowing these rules to be challenged. Donor (73%) and government (27%) investments into the programme amounted to $35 million during the period 1989 to 2003. Since 2003 however, donor funding has been reduced to <$600,000 over the past 5 years.

This article is based on an unpublished report originally produced for USAID FRAME.