Zimbabwe CAMPFIRE Programs

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    Zimbabwe CAMPFIRE Programs


    Zimbabwe
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    Zimbabwe Hunting Areas
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    CAMPFIRE areas are also known as Communal (tribal) Land

    The acronym CAMPFIRE stands for Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources. This came about as a result of clashes between a tribal community that was moved off its land in 1966 to make way for a wildlife reserve Ghona-re-Zhou National Park and the Department of National Parks. This community is today known as the Mahenye community and is situated just outside Ghona-re-Zhou. It is also regarded as Zimbabwe's finest example of a CAMPFIRE program, which is all about ensuring that wildlife and rural communities can coexist, something, which definitely wasn't happening 20 years ago.

    The people of Mahenye are Shangaan. Their own culture of conserving natural resources, i.e. the wildlife, for the future was disturbed with the arrival of European settlers at the turn of the century and their foreign concept that the wildlife belonged to the state. Thus the community was moved off the land in 1966 to make way for Ghona-re-Zhou National Park, which was only proclaimed in 1975. This led to the community looking on wildlife, which had been their lifeblood, as a nuisance, damaging their homes and destroying their crops. As a result they were forced to poach for their own subsistence and even helped commercial poachers. For this they were raided by police and often imprisoned, while the unseen commercial poachers escaped unpunished.

    In 1982, with the assistance of local rancher Clive Stockil, who'd grown up with the community and spoke Shangaan fluently, the Department of National Parks reached a groundbreaking agreement with the people of Mahenye. It allowed them to use the benefits of wildlife for the development of the community, giving them an incentive to preserve the animals on their land and in the National Park.

    Since then people have received the meat and a percentage of the revenue from commercial hunting on their land, with funds being used to build classrooms, clinics, mills and provide for the supply of electricity and water. Meat handouts have a positive spin-off as they are accompanied by traditional hunting celebrations, which reinforce community spirit and Shangaan culture, and the community is known to have aided Park officials in catching one of the top commercial poachers in the area. Since those early days, the Mahenye community has formed a partnership with Zimbabwe Sun Ltd to develop photographic safaris in the area, the result being the creation of Mahenye and Chilo Gorge Safari lodges, which were built and are staffed by community members.

    The success of CAMPFIRE type programs was best and quite unwittingly demonstrated by the Mahenye community during the '92 drought. In the years prior to the drought most communal people in this part of the country had relied on donor aid to feed themselves, with the result that by the time the drought came around their crops were non-existent and their cattle had died. The only people who didn't have to rely on donor aid were the Mahenye community. Good numbers of wildlife around them also survived. They had survived the worst drought in living memory merely through the sustainable utilization of their wildlife resources.

    Manyuli Springs in Zimbabwe has been established to provide a wildlife refuge between Chizarira and Matusadona National Parks. Chris Worden and Neels Ferrieira already worked in wildlife conservation but have long shared the ambition to use photographic safaris as the vehicle to establish a further area for this cause. Fifteen years ago the patch of land now called Manyuli Springs supported just one village. In 1982, after a rogue lioness with a taste for young girls had killed 13 children, the villagers decided to leave. Neels and Chris found a world where views stretched for 40 miles without a single light or fire to break the rolling landscape. They applied for a license to run the area as a CAMPFIRE Project, in which a percentage of the turnover is remitted directly to those living nearest. The actual percentage is a matter of negotiation. Chris and Neels offered an unprecedented 10%, significantly higher than that currently paid by the most of Zimbabwe's luxury camps.

    In return they were awarded a 10-year concession to develop the area for tourism. They were fighting rival bids by neighboring camps who wished to use the land for hunting. Using detailed forecasts of visitor numbers the pair proved that using the area for photographic safaris would generate more money for the immediate area and set a generous minimum to be paid while the project got underway. Local community leaders were invited to give their blessing to the project and people from the local village were hired. Already the first visitors have come to explore this unspoiled area.


    Save Valley Conservancy

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    In the 1970's, state land in Zimbabwe's south east lowveld, rich in diversity of flora and fauna, was turned over to cattle ranching. Fences were constructed, impeding the movement of wild animals, and predators were shot to protect the cattle. The costs of beef production gradually rose and stocking rate increased to meet costs. But a cycle of droughts, culminating in the disaster of 1992, destroyed the cattle industry. Proposals for the Save (pronounced Sah-vey) Valley Conservancy, one of the three similar projects, were mooted before the final drought as an exercise in conserving the black rhino, which were being heavily poached in state controlled National Parks. Some 20 animals had been re-located from the Zambezi Valley to one of the ranches, from where they strayed on to other properties. There arose the need for a co-ordinated program for their monitoring and protection.

    Twenty five ranches were bound together under a mutually agreed constitution. All internal fences were torn down, creating a free movement of wildlife over an area of nearly 350 km2 . The presence of foot and mouth disease in the newly-introduced buffalo population required the construction of a 350 kilometer double veterinary fence around the conservancy, from which all cattle were banished. The land owners were committed solely to wildlife utilization.

    Some 600 elephants were moved from the nearby Ghona-re-Zhou National Park in 1993. This was the first successful relocation of large numbers of elephants ever undertaken and proved that, where the funding is available, translocation of this species can be viable alternative to culling. The elephant population in the Save Valley Conservancy has now increased to around 800 individuals. Black rhino have been introduced and they have bred with spectacular success. Only one has been lost, to natural causes. There are a few White rhino, and the conservancy has plans to purchase more from the National Parks Board. The animals are protected by teams of armed scouts, but further protection is offered by educating the local community on the intrinsic value of the species and by providing incentives for local people to participate in the conservation exercise.

    Antelope populations have burgeoned. The tapestry is now complete except for roan and Liechtenstein's hartebeest, both of which once occurred here in large numbers. There are plans to re-introduce both species soon. And the bird life has made a complete recovery, with around 400 species which have been recorded. Finding for the project was originally provided by the Beit Trust and others, but it has been so successful that it is now self-funding.

    Those landowners who rely upon trophy hunting cannot shoot whatever they want. Animal quotas are set by committee, which relies upon data on game numbers collected by members driving over carefully arranged routes, together with landowner estimates. If an owner is tempted to exaggerate his game numbers, his figures will soon be challenged by his neighbors, so mean population aggregates tend to be fairly accurate. Experience over the past six years has shown that members' requirements for quota animals has generally fallen well below the numbers the conservancy's ecological advisors have recommended as sustainable.

    One of the founding principles of the Save Valley Conservancy constitution is to involve the peasant community living on the borders of the scheme in the conservation concept in a direct and practical way. The Conservancy Trust - a separate entity from the committee - will purchase wildlife, which will then be released into the protected area. As animals breed, the surplus will be auctioned. Profits from these sales are to be invested in community themselves.

    It remains to be seen how far these plans are implemented, but opportunities are naturally created for local people by an increase in tourism.

    It was the reintroduction of the starving families of elephant from Ghona-re-Zhou in 1992 - the first time that adult elephant had been moved as family units - that brought international recognition to the Conservancy. Six hundred were relocated, with that number around 700 today. The operation, together with the success of the black rhino relocations and the Conservancy's large numbers of cheetah and painted hunting dogs (as a result of small lion and hyena numbers), has placed it firmly among the successes on southern Africa's conservation map. Today the Save Valley Conservancy provides an example for projects elsewhere, with Clive Stockil saying that the World Bank has looked at it as a model for the proposed peace park that will hopefully one day link Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. It has proven the resilience of degraded natural ecosystems given a chance to restore themselves and could also provide a resource pool of game species for reintroduction to other depleted areas. Which is just what neighboring Mozambique needs.


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