Binga: Portrait of Rural Life in Zimbabwe
People in Binga district, north-western Zimbabwe, live in conditions of chronic poverty, and the combination of severe droughts and recent economic recession has increased their vulnerability. A 1993 Save the Children report stated that many residents regularly do not have enough grain to feed themselves. People exist on wild foods and drought handouts, remittances from relatives working in towns, and often from selling their remaining crops and livestock.

Living in such precarious conditions means that if wildlife damage crops or livestock, it can ruin people's very livelihoods. Elephant damage is a significant factor in crop loss in many parts of the district. Not surprisingly, until CAMPFIRE project money was used to build solar-powered fences around agricultural land and villages, local residents were not interested in conserving their wildlife, which they saw as dangerous and destructive. Through CAMPFIRE, these same wild animals are now vital to rural development in the district: revenues from fishing, game hunting and wildlife tourism are used to supplement individual household incomes and for community development projects. In 1980, before CAMPFIRE, the Binga district only had thirteen primary schools and no secondary schools. By 1995 the district boasted some 56 primary schools and nine secondary schools.

'Up until 1985, we were a people without hope. Our children too were suffering as diseases took their toll. There were no schools, no wells and no clinics. Villagers continually sought help as they were engaged in a desperate struggle to survive. With CAMPFIRE, we now have rural health centres within easy reach.'

Chief Sinakatenge, Binga district.