Chipinge: Elephants in the Fields
Not so long ago, an elephant was found raiding the crops in Mahenye ward, near Gonarhezhou National Park in southern Zimbabwe. In the past, the reaction of the villagers would have been to demand that the elephant be shot by the wildlife department. This time, however, the Chief himself intervened, saying: 'That elephant is our future'. The people chased the elephant out of the field instead.
That marks a major change in the attitude of the people of Mahenye ward. When the colonial government of Rhodesia created Gonarhezhou National Park, it drove out many of the Shangaan people who were living there. The people, not surprisingly, felt little attachment to the park. In fact, they felt if they killed the animals there would be no reason for the park to exist and they could move back onto their land. Poaching was rampant.
Under CAMPFIRE, however, the same villagers who once hunted illegally in the park can now grant a concession to a safari hunter who pays the community for the right to hunt on their land. Poaching is down as the people take a more protective view of their newly valuable resource and recognise the park as a reservoir of wealth - sort of a bank for animals.