Tsholotsho: Wildlife Provides Insurance Against Drought
Tsholotsho district borders the southern boundary of Hwange National Park. Although its soils are largely infertile and it is subject to regular droughts, local people raise cattle and grow millet and sorghum. The area also supports a significant wildlife population. Lions and hyenas regularly feast on people's livestock, and their crops are often trampled by elephants that migrate into the area from Hwange National Park (over 3 000 entered the area in the drought of 1995).
Relations between people and wildlife in the region declined until the District Council established a CAMPFIRE programme. Now the district relies entirely on hunting revenues, and in 1992, for the first time, revenues from two hunting concessions were presented in full community meetings. In view of the ongoing drought, people requested that some of the profits were used to provide household cash dividends, but the majority of the income was invested in community development projects. Village grinding mills were installed, seed packs were distributed along with foodstuffs to further offset the drought, and materials were purchased for hospitals and schools.
Perhaps the biggest change was in local attitudes: since the 1992 meeting, residents have supported the programme fully. Thanks to a tip-off from locals, seven international rhino poachers were recently caught in nearby Hwange Park.
Tsholotsho district does have room for improvement. Much of the benefits reach communities in the form of council-managed community projects (and if these are counted as disbursed to the community, the district consistently meets the targets set out in the guidelines). However, it might be better if these projects were managed by the communities themselves. There is also scope for increasing CAMPFIRE revenues by diversifying the sources of revenue, and offering nature tourism in the region.