CAMPFIRE Philosophy and Human-Wildlife Conflict

Due to poor rainfall, the absence of rural infrastructure, most notably roads and, in some cases, the presence of tsetse fly, human settlement and cultivation has been minimal in most of the areas where CAMPFIRE was first implemented. Typically, the wildlife producing areas are located towards the margins of the country and nearly all are adjacent to state protected wildlife areas. In these areas, the local communities have voluntarily set aside large tracts of wild land and adopted wildlife production systems, both consumptive and non-consumptive, based on free ranging game whose populations varies considerably between districts and within districts. CAMPFIRE has facilitated the development of appropriate institutions in communal lands so that individual households who share the costs of wildlife management become the main beneficiaries of revenue earned from wildlife and part of the decision-making process. As a result, communities in these harsh climatic and fragile environments, such as the Zambezi Valley have often diverted funds meant for other community priority projects to the procurement of relief food supplies, as a way of augmenting government and other food aid programmes every year.


However, while there are tangible economic benefits from conservation of natural resources, the social costs of living with wildlife in particularly, are high. They include, crop damage, threat to human lives in the form of injury and death, loss of livestock through injury and predation, and opportunity the cost of the land set aside for wildlife that could otherwise be used for cropping, among other land uses. Six cases of human deaths (Elelephant-4, Hippo-1, and Buffalo-1) were recorded in 2005 in Binga, 4 Elephant deaths were also recorded in Guruve, while there were two elephant deaths in Hurungwe, and another in Tsholostho during the same period. 13 crocodile deaths were also recorded across the same districts during this period. No losses of human life directly attributable to wildlife have been recorded in 2006. However, elephants and lions continue to harass communities especially in Hwange where significant increases in populations of the elephant can be found.


Human Deaths Reported in CAMPFIRE Districts in 2005

BINGA  Elephant 4, Hippo 1, Buffalo 1, Crocodile 3 

GURUVE  Elephant 4, Crocodile 4 

HURUNGWE  Elephant 2, Crocodile 3 

TSHOLOTSHO  Elephant 1, Crocodile 1 

CHIREDZI  Elephant 1, Crocodile 2 


In general, elephants are responsible for up to 75% of all wildlife crop damage in communal areas, with between 30 and 45 cases reported per ward every season. Crop damage is high during the wet season when the most commonly grown subsistence crops, maize and sorghum, are mature. Most rural communities are located close to rivers, and this naturally creates competition for water between the community and wildlife. The use of traditional methods of problem animal control in cropping areas such as making noise and throwing of stones, create habituation and often provoke the crop-raiding animals into challenging people guarding their crops. There is no insurance or any other form of compensation to affected communities for loss of property, crops, and even death, except for standard funeral assistance provided by the community, RDC and local Safari Operators. In the early days, the RDC paid compensation, but without a proper assessment system of the claims. The communities now set aside funds to cater for such eventualities as part of their annual CAMPFIRE revenues.


Solar powered electric fences were constructed out of donor funding and local community contribution to protect crops and homes in the 1990s, in various CAMPFIRE districts. In most districts these fences are now disused due to a shorter life-span. In Binga only the Sinamwenda village still have their circular electric fence intact out of seven similar fences in other villages in the Binga Rural District Council. A new Buffalo fence has been rehabilitated by the Masoka community in Mbire (formerly Guruve) district using their own CAMPFIRE income. Communities also employ Game Scouts, paid from their wildlife accounts, to complement the RDCs' Problem Animal Control Units. The game scouts monitor and apprehend those persons breaking the national, district or locally developed rules for using resources. As part of its support services, CAMPFIRE Association, with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, in August 2006 facilitated a two week resource monitor training programme at Mushandike Natural Resources College in response to the high turnover of Resource Monitors due to various factors, and as a way of enhancing the capacity of local communities to manage wildlife. The training was funded by the CAMPFIRE programme resources as a special service by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Donor funded training was last carried out in the 1990s. Although the programme has managed to undertake this training in the absence of donor funding, other challenges remain such as provision of the necessary resources required to apply the training in the field, such as field vehicles, firearms, and ammunition and communication radios.


CAMPFIRE is therefore, in principle, an alternative strategy to reduce conflict between people and wildlife, as much as it is, a conservation strategy. It creates opportunities for sustainable economic development in Zimbabwe's rural areas through natural resources management. However, ecological concerns and other considerations by CITES (2002 rejection of Zimbabwe ivory sale proposal), as well as occasional local misunderstandings in the allocation of off-take quotas are often viewed as impediments to access of indigenous resources by rural communities and their ability to improve local social services, infrastructure, and disposable income.


CAMPFIRE, as a rural development and conservation programme, has also used its success in wildlife management to harness other natural resource based enterprises to improve the livelihoods of people in rural areas.