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


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.

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  1. 1.

    For a full discussion of the CCG, see Child et al. (2003).

  2. 2.

    The WWF Multispecies Animal Production Systems (MAPS) Project.

  3. 3.

    Eric Loken, USAID, pers. comm., quoted in Child et al. (2003).

  4. 4.

    See WWF Natural Resource Management Support to CAMPFIRE (SupCamp) Project Documents.

  5. 5.

    See CAMPFIRE Programme Strategy Workshop Report 1992, Hunyani Hills & SupCamp Project Documents.

  6. 6.

    In Zimbabwe, Provinces are made up of Districts comprised of Wards. Wards in turn comprise a number of Villages. These spatially and physically defined groupings also reflect the lower level administrative structures of the country, namely WADCOs (Ward Development Committees) and VIDCOs (Village Development Committees).

  7. 7.

    Members of the CCG (subsequently, Service Providers and mostly NGOs), worked primarily through the WWCs and WWMCs.

  8. 8.

    Producer wards are used as a proxy for the area of wild land.

  9. 9.

    Note that habitat assessment by Dunham et al. (2003) was for all of North Gokwe District whilst that of Conybeare (1998) was confined to the Wildlife Corridor, an area set aside by North Gokwe residents for wildlife.

  10. 10.

    See Ingwe Safaris 2005 Year End Report to Guruve Rural District Council.

  11. 11.

    See Minutes of the Gairesi Development Trust & the Nyanga Downs Fly Fishing Club, 2005/06.

  12. 12.

    See Statutory Instrument (SI) 26 of 1998.


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Correspondence to Russell Taylor.

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This article is based on an unpublished report originally produced for USAID FRAME.

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Taylor, R. Community based natural resource management in Zimbabwe: the experience of CAMPFIRE. Biodivers Conserv 18, 2563–2583 (2009).

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  • Zimbabwe
  • Wildlife use
  • Economic benefit
  • Devolution
  • Proprietorship
  • Governance