“Progressing CBNRM in Zimbabwe” Workshop
15th May 2014
On Thursday 15th May Professor Dzingirai of the Centre of Applied Social Sciences (CASS) at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and I held a workshop on “progressing community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) in Zimbabwe” (related to my OIV placement and my PhD) with thanks to funding from Africa College and the ESRC. We brought together a great mix of policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers from all over Zimbabwe to discuss the country’s long history in CBNRM and how we can move the debate forward in a constructive and combined way.
Background to CBNRM
CBNRM stands for community-based natural resource management. The idea behind CBNRM is for communities to take control of the management of natural resources in their local area whether forestry, land, wildlife, fisheries etc. There are many different types of CBNRM but the basis for all is that people using and relying on natural resources should be the ones to manage them sustainably (for more see the World Bank explanation here and the WWF southern Africa project explanation here). It is important to note that in the case of Zimbabwe, and southern Africa more generally, the local communities involved in CBNRM tend to be subsistent or small holder farming communities reliant upon natural resources for the majority of their livelihoods.
In Zimbabwe, CBNRM took the form of the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE). This programme was established in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While originally designed to include forestry, grazing, water and wildlife, it was the latter that was considered to be the most economically viable and efforts were focused on the conservation and management of key wildlife species such as elephants (loxodonta africana), lions (panther leo), and buffalo (syncerus caffer). The CAMPFIRE model of wildlife-focused CBNRM was devised as a means of ameliorating the conflict between Zimbabwe’s mega-fauna and rural populations by creating an economic value for the wildlife that would benefit the communities involved (Adams and Hulme, 2001; Jones, 2004). Child (2003) explains that the initial model for community wildlife management in Zimbabwe – CAMPFIRE – had, at its core, “the empowerment of community members at village level to control wildlife and its revenues, the internalisation of costs and benefits at this level, and an underlying belief that wildlife was the most sustainable land use option in many of these remote areas” (p.6). See my previous blog on hunting for more information about the human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe and how CAMPFIRE works.
It is now a new era of research and understanding of CBNRM in Zimbabwe. Not only has the context changed with the political and economic crisis experienced in the country over the last decade, but little research has been done during and since that time, and the face of CBNRM has shifted from that of a focus on wildlife to forestry and other natural resources, involving also many more new stakeholders.
The workshop gave us a great opportunity to kick start the discussions on CBNRM, looking back in order to look forward. There was a huge amount of experience and knowledge in the room so it was a perfect chance to utilise this.
Without going into the depths of the debates on the successes and failures of CAMPFIRE, the workshop first highlighted a number of key issues with CBNRM in the region such as: the lack of successful devolution/decentralisation in a way that empowers local communities, lack of transparency within CBNRM processes; conflicts between traditional governance systems and modern/central governance systems and elite capture, for example. Harrison et al (submitted) discusses this in more detail.
After brief presentations from myself and Professor Dzingirai, we all asked ourselves what we can do with this knowledge, how we turn these issues into progress that is important and will make a difference, and where we can really contribute to the discourse. And in terms of going forward, how best can we help projects academically, politically, socially to be able to implement these provisions for more equitable and community-focused projects? It was a very interesting discussion.
On the current state of CBNRM in Zimbabwe there were two views in the room – one side (from more ecologically based backgrounds) was saying that CAMPFIRE has continued to function, and the other (from more social/development based backgrounds) saying it is not working and that it has more or less collapsed. There was a consensus that there remains some resilience within the programme, although the extent of that resilience was contested.
The debate then moved on from the CAMPFIRE programme to appreciate the changing face of CBNRM in the country towards more forestry management such as the new Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) projects (i.e. the Kariba project) being implemented. These are attempting to foster the same principles of CBNRM in passing the management of the resources to the local communities involved in the projects. The new projects are bringing with them an increase in the number and type of stakeholders involved along with a new policy context.
Furthermore, it was discussed that Zimbabwean CBNRM has gone through difficult economic situations in 2007/2008 and the dollarisation process which has complicated the functioning of things. Yet we do not fully understand the impact that these changes have had on CBNRM in the country. It was felt that CBNRM is not a panacea and is creating lots of problems, but that it still has the potential to work.
This discussion was then followed with ideas on how we, as a group of eclectic expertise and knowledge, can move the discourse forward to catch up with the changing face and context of CBNRM in Zimbabwe. Overall it was agreed that the main areas of focus should be the issues surrounding decentralisation, transparency, and the role of local people within the projects. This was linked to discussions around the need to review and streamline legislation (both national and international) with disagreement as to whether more legislation is needed or whether there is already too much. Furthermore, the CBNRM discourse in both evaluation and implementation needs to bring together the development focus and ecology focus in a more symbiotic way to fully understand the impacts and levels of ‘success’ of the projects.
The next step from this workshop is to turn the currently fragmented knowledge between the policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers around the table into accessible knowledge that can contribute to the development of the CBNRM discourse in Zimbabwe and wider southern Africa. There are a couple of policy briefs in the pipeline along with a working paper, so watch this space!
With big thanks to the participants who came from the following organisations:
- Centre of Applied Social Sciences (CASS), University of Zimbabwe, Harare
- Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Bulawayo
- Forestry Commission, Government of Zimbabwe, Harare
- Binga Rural District Council and CAMPFIRE Office, Binga
- Chiredzi Rural District Council and CAMPFIRE Office, Chiredzi
- National CBNRM Forum, CAMPFIRE Association, Harare
- Department of Wildlife and Safari Management, Chinhoyi University, Chinhoyi
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Southern African Office, Harare
- Environment Africa, Zimbabwe Office, Harare
- Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources (SAFIRE), Bulawayo Office
- Private Consultants
- Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, UK
Adams, W.M. and Hulme, D. 2001. If community conservation is the answer in Africa, what is the question? Oryx. 35(3), pp.193-200.
Child, B. 2003. Origins and Efficacy of Modern Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Practices in the Southern African Region. Unpublished.
Harrison, E.P., Stringer, L.C. & Dougill, A.J. submitted. CAMPFIRE’s governance gaps: the importance of the sub-District level for natural resource management in rural Zimbabwe. Centre for Climate Change and Economic Policy (CCCEP) Working Paper Series.
Jones, B.T. 2004. CBNRM, poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods: Developing criteria for evaluating the contribution of CBNRM to poverty reduction and alleviation in southern Africa. Zimbabwe. Archives.