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CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources)

CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources)

You will find several different resources in this article:

  1. A brief history and explanation of the CAMPFIRE concept;
  2. An article from the Chronicle outlining current government initiatives to revitalize the organisation;
  3. A link to a study of the effectiveness of CAMPFIRE entitled “Does the CAMPFIRE programme ensure economic benefits from wildlife to households in Zimbabwe?” and a copy of the main diagram of the CAMPFIRE stakeholders and flow of revenue and conclusions of this study and the articles conclusions.

Brief History

Rural homestead in Zimbabwe

From CAMPFIRE’s inception in the 1980’s, the program has encouraged rural communities on communal lands to conserve local wildlife populations. Prior to the program, Zimbabwe did not have a system where landowners and rural residents could manage the wildlife for their own benefit.

Like other African countries, upon independence Zimbabwe inherited a system of State ownership of wildlife. But, in 1975, the Parks and Wildlife Act was passed that gave private landholders the right to manage wildlife for their own benefit. This change in policy facilitated the recovery of wildlife on private lands. In 1982, the legal provisions of the Act were extended to Rural District Councils (RDCs), which was the beginning of the CAMPFIRE program.

Govt approves proposal to revitalise CAMPFIRE

Logo of Chronicle newspaper
Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
17 SEP, 2020 – 01:09 Minister Monica Mutsvangwa


Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter

GOVERNMENT has approved proposals to re-focus and revitalise the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE).

Cabinet noted that a widely consultative review process that was conducted in 2016, revealed that CAMPFIRE was experiencing institutional, operational, legal and external challenges while being highly dependent on hunting revenue, which generates 90 percent of its total revenue.

To guarantee proper regulation and enforcement of the stakeholder benefits and to resolve current misunderstandings between rural district councils and the producer communities, Cabinet concurred on the need to ensure that CAMPFIRE becomes more efficient and induces economic growth in line with Vision 2030.

In her post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the proposal will result in an improvement in manner in which CAMPFIRE is run including and further operationalising the devolution concept.

“Implementing the proposals will result in a more effective and transparent CAMPFIRE that will benefit communities and further operationalise the devolution concept. The CAMPFIRE initiative targets the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wildlife and other natural resources as livelihood options for rural communities,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

“Furthermore, the CAMPFIRE model is highly dependent on hunting revenue, which generates 90 percent of the total revenue. There is need for diversification if the programme is to remain viable.”

Cabinet noted that the CAMPFIRE programme should diversify into other activities, such as photographic safaris, ecotourism, and bird viewing to widen the revenue base and explore alternative markets for trophy hunting.

“In order to guarantee the proper regulation and enforcement of the stakeholder benefits and to resolve current misunderstandings between Rural District Councils and the producer communities, Cabinet agreed on the need to ensure that the CAMPFIRE becomes more efficient and induces economic growth in line with Vision 2030,” she said.

Cabinet thus approved that a Statutory Instrument on CAMPFIRE Regulations be enacted clearly spelling out, among other things, the definition of Appropriate Authority status and roles, Appropriate Authority conferment procedures and revocation, producer communities, revenue sharing mechanisms and ratios, and accountability and institutional arrangements for a renewed CAMPFIRE Model.

Cabinet also resolve that the Parks and Wildlife Act, and the Environmental Management Act will be aligned to the Constitution, and that the provisions on the clear roles and responsibilities of ZimParks as regulator of the CAMPFIRE programme be incorporated.

Cabinet also directed that appropriate SOP for CAMPFIRE and Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) be established.
To attract improved funding flows to CAMPFIRE the existing laws will be strengthened to compel CAMPFIRE to establish credible systems.
“In addition, a practitioners manual for CAMPFIRE and CBNRM in Zimbabwe will be developed by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

Cabinet also adopted revised Zimbabwe Agro-Ecological Zones that replace the outdated ones done between 1945 and 1960 to take into account the change in climatic conditions in the various regions since then.

Link to a study of the effectiveness of CAMPFIRE see below

Rural community meeting

Does the CAMPFIRE programme ensure economic benefits …

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/26395916.2019.1599070

Conclusions of the article

4.4. CAMPFIRE sustainability

Despite all the shortcomings of the CAMPFIRE programme, the vast majority of our household sample opted for its continuation, which is an indication of the programme resilience despite a severe national economic depression.

Nevertheless, the fact that 12.2% of the respondents think that CAMPFIRE is not of any help should challenge all involved, and may be interpreted as a progressive lack of trust in the programme (Alexander and McGregor 2000; Guerbois et al. 2013) and an alarming loss of social capital (Pretty and Smith 2004).

Overall, local people’s option for the continuation of CAMPFIRE may be justified by the fact that the southern lowveld does not offer other viable land use options apart wildlife management, since it belongs mainly to ecological regions IV and V (Reid 2016).

Conclusion and recommendations

CAMPFIRE programme can be assimilated to a payment for ecosystem services scheme with financial benefits from wildlife-based activities being considered at four levels: the safari operators; rural district councils; communities; and households.

The aggregate amounts allocated to district councils and communities are considerable as compared to what is trickling down directly to households, yet they are the ones bearing the highest opportunity and transaction costs of wildlife management.

Households were incentivised through direct economic benefits (monetary dividends, employment opportunities and bushmeat provision), and indirect economic benefits/socio-economic benefits (infrastructural facilities).

The direct economic benefits have been limited; however, the households appreciated the infrastructural facilities from CAMPFIRE. Some households, although limited in number, feel that the programme is assisting in management of the human-wildlife conflict.

Both the direct economic benefits and socio-economic benefits have been worsened by the donor withdrawal, with a sharp decrease in household dividends, an increased prevalence of human-wildlife conflict, and a rampant illegal hunting for meat and income generation.

CAMPFIRE needs to be redesigned by addressing some flaws in the programme design. Like many community-based programme in Africa, CAMPFIRE principle of devolution exists in form but not in practice and has been co-opted or undermined by locally powerful bureaucratic actors, mainly the district council, ignoring some important features of the local context (Cox et al. 2010).

For a community-based programme to secure impact at scale, it should embed mandate empowered local institutions in a broader institutional and policy framework that supports devolution of rights and responsibilities to local people when it comes to wildlife management (Reid 2016).

This can practically be achieved in the ward context by implementing full devolution of authority to the community level, with safeguards to maintain good governance and adequate capacity (Balint and Mashinya 2006).

Further, land tenure (or the lack of it) was often central to whether the goals of community-based programme could be achieved (Mukulumanya et al. 2014; Bluwstein et al. 2016; Reid 2016).

Also poaching can be mitigated by implementation of graduated sanctions at local level, and international enforcement at regional levels in as much as Zimbabwe is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area and Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Moreover, the Park Authorities should avail relevant CAMPFIRE hunting concession maps to ensure that there are clear boundaries that define the wildlife resource system (buffer zones inclusive). Lack of adequate data on wildlife management activities (e.g., human-wildlife conflict, poaching, financial issues) on the African continent in general (Chevallier 2016), and in the country in particular (Machena et al. 2017), is a general problem.

Data collection, monitoring and data management are central to an objective understanding of the functioning of any community-based programme model (Jrg et al. 2016; Machena et al. 2017).


The fact that the majority of the households have acknowledged that they are still benefiting from CAMPFIRE public infrastructure and community projects, even after the withdrawal of the donor, now more than a decade later, is a positive development toward the creation of social capital for biodiversity improvement. This may result in increasing the effective ownership of the programme at household level and add to its sustainability.

As stated by Cox et al. (2010), the real ‘glue’ that keeps an institution alive over time are the social mechanisms, i.e., trust, legitimacy, and transparency. In this regard, implementing blockchain technologies in the management of the programme could contribute significantly to the CAMPFIRE programme’s effectiveness and provide transparency that is so desperately needed.

Despite the limited direct economic benefits at household level, the households indicated that they wanted the programme to continue mainly because they are appreciating the socio-economic benefits. Since wildlife management on its own cannot sustain rural people well-being but needs to be accompanied by other socio-economic activities, decision makers should come up with innovative solutions that address the agricultural limitations related to agro-ecological regions IV and V.

Implementing aquaponics projects in local communities interfacing with protected areas, for instance, may contribute to poverty alleviation through provision of food and income from fish and crop production. Such milestones may also contribute to poaching mitigation.

In addition, since the donors abruptly abandoned the programme, there is need for the government to further support the programme through funding and capacity building at district, ward and household levels. In this regard, decision makers should ensure that CAMPFIRE becomes an equitable and financially sustainable payment for ecosystem services scheme that provides tangible incentives that contribute to household well-being.

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