CAMPFIRE and Government Policy

The majority of Zimbabwe's rural population (76%) lives on Communal Land. Much of this is a marginal environment (Natural Regions IV and V), representing 42% of the total land area of Zimbabwe (390, 760 sq km). In most of these agriculturally marginal natural regions, the recommended land-use is extensive livestock and/or wildlife production. In Zimbabwe today, about 65 000 sq km or 17% of land is set aside for wildlife production. This land area comprises of 30 000 sq\km private land (significantly reduced after the land reform programme), 13 895 sq km Communal Land, 4 105sq km Forest land, and 16 945sq km Safari Areas within the National Parks and Wildlife Estate. This makes wildlife management the centrepiece of the Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE)'s wide range of natural resources management interventions and the improvement of the social and economic status of rural communities.

CAMPFIRE, an acronym in which ‘Communal' has recently been changed to ‘Community' in order to focus on communities instead of the geographic spread of the programme, was formed in 1988 for long-term development, management and sustainable utilisation of natural resources in communal areas.

Communal areas in Zimbabwe are administered by Rural District Councils (RDCs), which are the lowest level of government in communal lands. RDC’s are a mechanism for the implementation of the government’s policy of ‘conservation by utilization’ of natural resources, which was first practiced through the granting of Appropriate Authority (AA) status to private land owners under the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975.  This Act, through further amendment in 1982, provides the same legal rights over the utilisation of wildlife to RDCs on behalf of communities in whose areas viable populations of wildlife are found. This arrangement has guided the implementation of CAMPFIRE since the late 1980s.

Guides on the operations of CAMPFIRE, first developed in 1991, are currently under review by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.