Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 10, pp 2601–2623 | Cite as

Parks-people conflicts: the case of Gonarezhou National Park and the Chitsa community in south-east Zimbabwe

  • Solomon Mombeshora
  • Sebastien Le BelEmail author
Original Paper


National parks have been the centre piece of international conservation strategies in developing countries. The expansion in the network of national parks has enabled the conservation of biodiversity and habitats but the acquisition of vast areas into the park system has often been achieved through the displacement of resident local communities. Displaced people are exposed to a variety of impoverishment risks and this stokes up animosity towards parks. The research reported here seeks to understand the key issues involved in the occupation of a section of Gonarezhou National Park by Headman Chitsa’s people. The paper examines how the interplay between the history of displacement and dispossession, demographic pressures, limited economic opportunities, the ‘fast track’ land reform programme and dynastic politics are fomenting the land conflict between Gonarezhou and Chitsa community. Secondary actors with diverse interests have also come into the fold. Official efforts to resolve the conflict using a top-down approach have yielded little success. This culminated in a shift towards the use of traditional mechanisms of resolving a chieftaincy dispute as a step towards addressing the broader parks-people land conflict. Lessons from the case study are, inter alia, that interventions aimed at resolving parks-people conflicts should be alive to local culture, livelihood needs and power dynamics and, to the extent possible, eschew forcible relocations. Finally, we draw attention to the need to address the wider contradiction between policies promoting wildlife conservation and those promoting agriculture. The article is written to share lessons with readers interested in parks-people conflicts.


Chitsa community Conflict Conflict resolution mechanisms Conservation Displacement Gonarezhou National Park Impoverishment risks Lessons learnt 



The authors would like to thank FFEM for funding through the Bio-Hub platform. However, the views expressed in this paper are the responsibility of the authors. The authors would also like to express their immense gratitude to the reviewers of Biodiversity and Conservation for constructive comments that have enriched our treatment of parks-people conflicts. We would also like to thank the Chitsa Task Force and the Chitsa people for making our research possible. Finally, we would like to thank participants at the symposium held in Tapoa, Niger for comments on our presentation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe
  2. 2.CIRADHarareZimbabwe

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