The tro­phy would not hold

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

AF­TER IN­DE­PEN­DENCE in 1980, the Zim­babwe govern­ment es­tab­lished the Com­mu­nal Ar­eas Man­age­ment Pro­gramme for In­dige­nous Re­sources (CAMP­FIRE). The aim was twofold: to in­crease in­come op­por­tu­ni­ties in dry and arid ar­eas close to an­i­mal sanc­tu­ar­ies and to main­tain the eco­log­i­cal bal­ance. In­come was to be gen­er­ated through var­i­ous forms of nat­u­ral re­source ex­ploita­tion—tourism and sale of wild an­i­mals or an­i­mal prod­ucts. The land still be­longed to the state, but ben­e­fit-shar­ing be­came more ac­cept­able un­like in the colo­nial era.

Pro­ceeds from the project were used for the ben­e­fit of com­mu­ni­ties. Un­der the pro­gramme, ru­ral district coun­cils were au­tho­rised to mar­ket wildlife re­sources in their dis­tricts to sa­fari op­er­a­tors on be­half of com­mu­ni­ties. The op­er­a­tors would sell hunt­ing sa­faris to mostly for­eign sport hunters and eco-tourists, be­fore pay­ing the com­mu­ni­ties a div­i­dend.

But over the years, due to a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal, the CAMP­FIRE pro­gramme weak­ened, and stopped re­mit­ting the 60 per cent it was sup­posed to give vil­lage wards. Donor sup­port with­drawal (USAID was a ma­jor fun­der but with­drew in 1999), poor lead­er­ship, con­flicts be­tween lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and com­mu­ni­ties, po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and poor fund­ing con­trib­uted to the di­min­ished role of CAMP­FIRE.

At present, 58 out of 60 ru­ral dis­tricts in the country are mem­bers of the pro­gramme, although just 16 of th­ese are re­garded as "ma­jor" CAMP­FIRE ar­eas in which in­come gen­er­a­tion is pri­mar­ily through big-game tro­phy hunt­ing. CAMP­FIRE di­rec­tor Charles Jonga says, "Cur­rently, CAMP­FIRE gen­er­ates, on an av­er­age $2 mil­lion in net in­come ev­ery year, which is much lower than es­ti­mated po­ten­tial earn­ings for the pro­gramme."

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