Examples of community-based management of natural resources
in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana

by Dadirayi Chigoya, Radio Bridge Overseas, Harare - Zimbabwe

"What is entailed here is that the local communities are not doing this conservation for nothing," says Roy Sichilaba, Chairman of the Mumbwa Game Management Authority in Zambia. "They are conserving wildlife with a view to getting direct benefits from the utilisation of wildlife resources in their various game management areas. There has been maximum appreciation for this new arrangement because, you see, benefits are actually accruing and people are seeing what is supposed to be of benefit. We are talking about grinding mills having been made available to the people. We are talking of schools being built from this same arrangement. We are talking of many more other facilities being made available because of the same arrangement."

The "arrangement" Sichilaba refers to is based on a new understanding in more and more African countries that smooth going for its majority of people living in rural areas must be based on opportunities to manage their natural resources in a way that benefits them. Thorns grew along the way of the rural people in Africa not only during colonial rule, but even after the advent of independence. Central powers took control over game parks and lakes, forests and grasslands. Millions of rural dwellers remained cut off from the only resource which could provide a livelihood.

Dadirayi Chigoya
talking to Chief Chibuluma

I was involved in the production of a regional radio programme about the struggles of grassroot people in Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. I learned about their successes, failures and endeavours as they tried to earn a living from natural resources in their areas, to get control over the land they live on. These people are involved in a programme called the Community Based Natural Resources Management, CBNRM.

During colonial rule in my country, Zimbabwe, people of the Shangani tribe were moved from their lands which the colonialists turned into game reserves. After being resettled, they went back to the game reserves to hunt as hunting had always been their way of life, but now even the language had changed: "hunting" became "poaching" and the people had to fight.
"It was extremely bad. Infact we were at war with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife," Lyson Masango, a villager at Mahenye in Eastern Zimbabwe recalls his experience with the colonialists. "People from the Department of Wildlife would come at night with guns and raid homes, searching for the poachers. They used to torture and beat people in order to force them to reveal who the poachers were."

LISTEN - 26'31"

After all, the colonisers thought they had come to civilise and develop the Africans. But Africans had their ways of conservation, although they were not documented and the term "conservation" even did not exist. They did it in order to survive. For example, in my culture, sacred and other protected animals were used for family or clan names. The family did not kill or eat meat from such animals. This was a simple method of allocation of animals to the community as each clan would hunt for a different type of animal.

Ulekai Takadu, a game warden at Maun in Botswana told me of his experience when he was addressing a community meeting one day. He said a man stood up to complain that the Department of National Parks and Wildlife had not paid any heed to traditional hunting methods.
"We used to hunt only male buffaloes, this man said, because we knew that if we reduce the number of males then we reduce the infighting for female buffaloes. With the few bulls remaining, they could do well with the females and then the population would increase."

As land and game was in the hands of central authorities even after independence, poaching remained, and in some areas even increased. There had to be changes if wildlife was not only to survive but was to become a sustainable source of income.

People in Botswana started to raise their concern about the fact that their areas were rich in wildlife resources which attracted tourists yet they did not benefit from it. At the same time, it was them who suffered when the animals came to raid their fields and homes, sometimes killing people. They sought the support of conservancy organisations who helped to lobby policy makers to make the necessary amendments in the laws that affected wildlife, and they succeeded.
Now the communities have the right to look for business partners of their choice by putting out tenders. One of the communities that are benefitting from the changes in the laws is to be found in Sankuyu, Botswana. I met their leader, Baidi Gozana, who was happy with the way things were working out. The community of Sankuyu had, for the first time, the right to negotiate on its own a contract with a safari operator to hunt game in their area. The community receives 50% of the meat that the safari operator gets as well as a fee for the duration of the contract, amounting to the equivalent of US$87,000 .

In Zimbabwe, the Shangani at Mahenye now have a contract with a South African hotel chain. The hotel chain built a sophisticated lodge close to the land from which the people were removed to make space for one of the largest National Parks in the country. It is the first time that a community was allowed to negotiate such a contract which gets them a share of what tourists pay.

But Ivine Bond, who works for the Zimbabwe based Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources, CAMPFIRE says, "These people are not managing their wildlife yet. These people are managing benefits which are passed on to them by the district council. So until people are actively participating in wildlife management, it will still be something out of their control."
The Shangani receive a share from the profit made by the hotel chain, but they were not involved in the design and they are not participating in the management, they are not the owners of the project. For communities to feel that they own something, that they are participating meaningfully, governments have to give more control to them.

Maxi Louis works with NACOBTA, the Namibia Community Based Tourism Association. She thinks people in Namibia had an advantage. "Because Namibia was the last country to get its independence within the African continent, I think we also learnt a lot from what was happening in the other countries, and I think, we have taken another direction. We decided to address communities first and we have them looking after their own natural resources."

Communities in Namibia have built their own campsites. I was fortunate to meet one person who was instrumental in setting up such an enterprise in Purros, Northern Namibia. His name is Peter Uraavi.
"I worked for a safari operator," he explained, "then I went back to the community and asked if I could start a campsite. I tried to look for a way that it would create jobs in the area. The community agreed, Then I went to NGO's and asked for assistance. They gave me material worth 13,000 N$."
The campsite is flourishing and local people are employed there. As for the monetary benefits, 45% of the income goes to the workers, 10% to the community, 25% to the campsite and the remainder to pay back the loan. Compared with the luxurious retreat for tourists in Mahenye, Zimbabwe, this community-based enterprise in Northern Namibia may range at the low end of income. I doubt whether they will ever earn that much as the South African hotel chain which can allow itself to give away US$25,000 a year as benefit to the Mahenye-community. However, the people involved earn not only a living but they are in control, and with that sense of responsibility comes a new understanding of the importance to conserve the environment they benefit from.

Chief Chibuluma from Mumbwa district in Zambia is one wise leader of a successful project. He said he realised that his community had the important duty to guard against poachers alongside the wardens and game rangers.
"So as a community, we now work hand in hand with the Department of Wildlife," he said, "because we know that if we do not stop the poachers, it means shortly we are not going to have animals."
In Namibia, former poachers are now even employed as game scouts.

LISTEN - 26'45"

From all that I saw during my visits in four countries of Southern Africa, it appears that mostly men were involved in the new drive to manage natural resources on community level. I have always known that, in my culture, females are brought up in a way that they should not challenge males in their roles, but I had never thought this would extend to expressing one's view.
"To be frank, if somebody suggested to me that my wife becomes a member of the committee," one man said in Mahenye, Zimbabwe, "I would not like it because when she has to attend workshops for instance, I start to suspect that she might be seeing other men. That is the attitude most of us here have."

Chief Chibuluma in Zambia selected only one woman to be a member of the project committee by virtue of her being a teacher. His son, Dennis, told me, her role is to inform her pupils about the developments in their area so that the children inform their parents. She seems to be just a tool for communication and nothing else. It was not surprising that the womens' club which used to exist in the area is now defunct.

Ironically, in the neighbouring Botswana, a lot of women had direct roles in the projects. At Kavimba, in the Chobe enclave of Botswana, Claudia Ntshunga, is the Programme Officer for the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust, CECT. When I visited the area, she was understudying the Community Development Advisor. I asked her how it felt to be an African woman leading African men and she told me that it was difficult at first as most men did not support her. So what did she do?
"I did not waste my time trying to explain that I could do the job. I just proved it through my work and they were convinced."
Claudia got her job because of her educational background. But she has managed to convince the chiefs and other traditional leaders that women are equally good in this work, the community now realises the potential of women. They now hold meetings where they select women to be trained so that they can actively participate in the project as well as in decision making. This major breakthrough in Botswana means the women also receive a fair share from the benefits that the community earns.

The only other thing that such a community may worry about is whether they receive what they deserve, be it from a safari operator or any other joint venture. Most of the traditional leaders in Africa are illiterate. They base their decisions on what their forefathers always did. This has always worked in cases like allocating land to their subjects and other domestic issues. But when it comes to dealing with monetary benefits in modern economy, a lot of figures are involved. Then it requires a way to monitor the benefits, otherwise it would be easy to cheat communities. In Zimbabwe, I was disturbed to find out that Chief Mahenye did not even know how much his community was entitled to. But the wise old man in Zambia, Chief Chibuluma, found a solution.
"Now we get a copy from the computer," he said, "so we really can know this is the actual figure, even before we receive the money."

It is even better if these communities know how to do their own calculations and keep their own books of accounts. Campsite operators in Namibia realised this need and have started to organise training through their mother body, NACOBTA. They are learning how to run their campsites through visiting other enterprises in their country where they receive hands on training for two weeks each.

While governments have granted some control over wildlife to rural communities, it has taken some time for these communities to assume this position. Hence, in some cases, wildlife elites rather than groups of people have been empowered. As a result, accountability has been lost as the elites are no longer answerable to the larger community. But in Guruve, in Zimbabwe, there has been an awakening.
"A few members of the community came together and formed what they called a resistance committee or pressure group, monitoring the committee," Lilian Dimbi said, "so that, if there are some problems, if there is no accountability, they would then demand it from the committee. So, in a way, it has put pressure on them to be accountable."
It is true, some communities now have control over their natural resources. Those who don't still have to learn to make the necessary adjustments to their way of life in order to develop along with others.

The radio programme that my organisation produced was aimed at bridging people with the same objectives in the four countries. After having selected and edited all material and having put it on air in four different language versions, we still had one more task to accomplish. We had to evaluate the impact of the programme. So we went back to all involved communities in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, and the results were impressive. The communities had realised how important it was to learn from each other.
"We should visit each country," Chief Chibuluma said after listening to the radio serial, "so that we can exchange views and see where we are failing. We can copy from others and improve ourselves."

Dadirayi Chigoya recording a song of the community in Kavimba, Botswana


Research & Interviews:
Sam Ngoma (Zambia & Zimbabwe)
Eddington Mhonda (Botswana)
Nick Perkins (Namibia)
Morris Nyakudya & Dumisani Gumpo
Evaluation & Post-recordings:
Dadirayi Chigoya
Brenda Moyo
Jennifer Chiriga
Managing Editor & Director:
Klaus Juergen Schmidt
Zimbabwean Interns attached to this RBO-project:
Gershom Nyathi, Phinius Mushoriwa
German Interns attached to this RBO-project:
Christiane Cichy, Udo Taubitz, Boris Kunert
Alexandra von Stauss, Jonny Rieder
Holger Bock, Olaf Krems

Episodes of this serial are also available in Shona, Bemba and Setswana.
Check RBO's special programming


You can go back to the introduction page by hitting the button above. If you click on one of the four maps to be found there you will be connected to websites of organisations involved in community-based management of natural resources in each of those countries. But we offer also a couple of new developments with regard to projects mentioned in our program which have been observed since the last visit of the RBO-crew to these four countries. The links below will connect you to some interesting follow-ups and essential reading.

"THE ZIMBABWE INDEPENDENT" / Zimbabwe / 08.05.1998
Nearly 771 families in Mahenye Village of Zimbabwe recently received more than $340,000 cash, their share of $588,594 raised through the Zimbabwe Sun Hotel Group sponsored community project at Mahenye in the lower Save area of Chipinge.

"THE NAMIBIAN" / Namibia / 14.11.1997
The Bukalo tribal authority has accused Caprivi Regional Governor John Mabuku of jeopardising a million dollar conservancy project, which has the potential to economically empower up to 10 000 people.

"THE POST" / Zambia / 07.08.1997
Zambia maintains ban on elephant hunting

SADC's emphasis on the need to integrate biological wildlife conservation with development of the rural communities who incur the bulk of conservation costs has been heeded. The Sector is renown for its various community based natural resource management programmes.

The CAMPFIRE Wildlife and Development Series / Zimbabwe
Essential Reading

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Management of Wildlife, Tourism and Local Communities in Zimbabwe
Discussion Paper No. 53, August 1994 / Chris McIvor



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