CAMPFIRE and Government Policy

Zimbabwe’s Wildlife Policy of January 1992 states that while the executive responsibility for all wildlife rests with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the Minister responsible for the Environment will allow for the management and use of wildlife as a privilege to Appropriate Authorities (AA) for various categories of land outside the Parks and Wildlife Estate, i.e. Forest Land (Forestry Commission), Communal Land (Rural District Councils), and freehold land (owner/occupier). The policy also recognizes that the conservation of wildlife and habitats outside the Parks and Wildlife estate requires the cooperation of rural communities in communal and resettlement areas, and that these must be the primary beneficiaries. The policy was informed by the success and demonstrated benefits of wildlife proprietorship conferred on private land owners in the commercial farming sector from before independence in 1975. 

According to the country’s statues, wildlife belongs to the state, and wildlife is res nullius. This means that a wild animal is entitled to natural freedom of movement from one place to another and does not belong to an individual. Therefore government grants landholders custodianship and privileges regarding use of wildlife that is on one’s land, and such rights are automatically lost when the wildlife moves to another area. Rural people under CAMPFIRE occupy Communal land that has wildlife on it, but there has been no mechanism to constitute these communities into legal sub-district institutions at village or ward level that meet the conditions for the granting of AA status, as is the case for individuals on freehold land (game farms, private conservancies). Communities are represented in RDCs through Councilors whom they elect as prescribed in statutes. AA for the management of wildlife on communal land is therefore granted to RDCs as the lowest accountable level of government, on behalf of communities. There is provision that AA status will be reviewed and or revoked if producer communities do not benefit directly. 

CAMPFIRE Guidelines

The objectives of the CAMPFIRE programme are outlined in the original Guidelines for CAMPFIRE issued to local authorities in 1992 by the then Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management (DNPWM), now Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA). The purpose of local government in rural areas is clear. It is to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and to meet the needs of communities for local infrastructure, local public services and the performance of regulatory functions. The sharing of CAMPFIRE Revenue based on the original guidelines, and as reviewed in 2002 is; 55% of income is allocated to communities, 26% to the RDC to support costs attributable to CAMPFIRE activities, 15% for general RDC administration, and 4% as a levy to the Association. 55% of income to communities is the minimum limit, which has exceeded 60% in Tsholotsho in the recent past, as an example. RDCs are also required to produce acceptable institutional plans which outline clearly the methods by which Councils a) involve wildlife producer communities in district level management, and b) devolve the decision-taking process in local wildlife management and the distribution of wildlife benefits to producer communities. The plans are being reviewed to take into consideration demographic and other socio-economic imperatives over time. 

The amendment of the Rural District Councils Act [Chapter 29:13], necessitated by the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27] of 2006, provides for the establishment of an Environment Committee responsible for the management and protection of the environment in a Council area. This replaced the Natural Resources and Agriculture/Conservation Committee in RDCs. The Environment Committee is assisted by Environment Subcommittees in the exercise of functions relating to the environment and natural resources within one or more wards or one or more villages in the council area. In 2009, the Ministry of Local Government gazetted guidelines for the establishment of Environment Subcommittees. Some CAMPFIRE districts now have functional Environment Subcommittees, and the CAMPFIRE Association has assisted with capacity building (e.g. Hwange and Tsholotsho). 

Besides the Councilor, Environment Subcommittees are made up of elected community representatives from every ward or village which falls within the area for which the subcommittee is established. With the authority of the Minister of Local Government, RDCs may delegate all or any of the functions of an Environment Committee to these Subcommittees. Equally, the Minister may designate a Ward Development Committee or a Village Development Committee as an Environment Subcommittee for purposes of managing a specific natural resource. Environment Subcommittees provide for greater involvement of Traditional Leaders in community level CAMPFIRE activities. Currently, Rural District Councils (RDCs), through the Communal Land Act [Chapter 20:04], are the planning and land allocating authorities within their respective areas of jurisdiction, with traditional leaders being custodians.