The trophy would not hold
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."