Zimbabwe: Former Campfire Director Blames Rampant Poaching on Land Reform

by May 3, 2011Wildlife News

REPORTS from independent environmental organisations like the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) clearly indicate that the country’s wildlife population continues to dwindle drastically.

Unless some corrective measures are put in place urgently, the country risks losing a whole lot more, to the point of some animals becoming extinct.

A drive around Zimbabwe’s game parks and most remote areas that used to be infested with wildlife is not as interesting as it used to be as there is evidently no longer as much wildlife to talk about.

So bad is the situation that it has become necessary to reflect on the wildlife management stance that the country has adopted for so many years and discuss whether it is not about time that it is relooked at and reviewed, seeing the strategies are not working.

Through much lobbying and advocacy, the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire) in Zimbabwe gained much momentum from as early as the 80s in its fierce fight for “sustainable utilisation” of local wildlife resources and the need to grant locals licences to hunt and trade in animal products.

This was welcomed by many Zimbabweans, most of who saw it as a chance to fully utilise the country’s resources for financial enrichment.

Unfortunately, most appear to have missed the bit about utilising the resources in a sustainable manner.

Although the Campfire programmes might genuinely have been positive as it is undoubtedly of paramount importance that the indigenous people be financially empowered through the locally-based God-given resources, results show the prevailing trend has proven to be highly detrimental to the livelihood of one the country’s most valuable treasures.

In a one -on- one interview with The Standard, Steven Kasere, the former Campfire director who resigned in 2001 under circumstances he described as “political” had a lot to say about the present state of affairs, as far as wildlife management is concerned.

Kasere, who took over the directorship of Campfire in 1999 and became a major player in the fight for the sustainable utilisation of the wildlife resources in Zimbabwe, expressed great disappointment and concern over the rapid deterioration of the country’s wildlife.

“Everywhere I go; people ask me if Campfire still exists. This is a very sad situation when considering that it was mainly because of the Campfire programme that the downlisting of the elephants from Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix 1 to Appendix 2 was granted,” he said as he reflected on the Campfire’s past achievements.

With the rate of wildlife poaching in Zimbabwe, it would appear as though Campfire is losing grip of the programmes that it once promoted with so much.

This could be because there isn’t much wildlife to talk of anymore.

Kasere blamed the apparent failure of Campfire’s programmes on greed nature, which he said had seen so many animals getting killed for financial gain without as much as allowing them a chance to regenerate.

Kasere was however quick to point out that failure of the Campfire programmes to realise the intended results also had much to do with the land reform programme that the government embarked on more than a decade ago.

“The land reform, though necessary, brought about human resource changes that had to be accommodated.

Urbanites who were never part of the Campfire structures for management of natural resources suddenly became farmers.

“Naturally, they started to cut down trees and kill animals because they had no knowledge of other viable land use options other than agriculture,” he said.

‘In the former Campfire areas, key personnel that commanded higher natural resource posts moved to new resettlement areas, leaving Campfire institutions on the ground ineffective.

“So in a way, the land reform was not accompanied by the necessary institutional arrangements to save wildlife. Hence a lot of wild animals were killed while natural resource institutions collapsed,” Kasere said.

However, the real issue here is not whether to place the blame on Campfire for the leading role that it played in propounding the idea of resource utilisation that has now clearly gone out of hand or if the blame should instead rest on the government’s land policies that have seen the settlers causing unprecedented degradation to the areas they settled in.

What is important is to admit that the wildlife management strategies that Zimbabwe has adopted are just not working and to urgently seek to rectify the situation, if the country’s wildlife is ever to be saved.