Charting a new course: Advancing conservation through legal innovation

Compiled by Kudakwashe Dube

In the heart of Zimbabwe’s biodiversity-rich landscapes lies Binga, a region teeming with potential for effective community-driven conservation. Yet, despite its promise, the absence of a comprehensive legal framework poses significant challenges to the sustainability and effectiveness of community conservancies in the area.

Heralded as beacons of inclusive conservation, community conservancies empower local communities to govern and manage wildlife resources sustainably. However, their success hinges on clear legal and governance structures. Recognizing this need, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), with support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), embarked on a groundbreaking initiative – a baseline study to support the development of a Legal and Governance Framework for community conservancies in the country.

In recent years, community-based conservation have gained recognition as a valuable strategy to address various wildlife conservation challenges, while simultaneously addressing the socio-economic needs of communities living in co-existence with wildlife. In many countries, such as Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia, community conservancies have emerged as a promising model for reconciling conservation objectives with the livelihood priorities of local communities.

However, Zimbabwe does not have a legal and governance regulatory framework for conservancies, although they have been identified as vehicles for raising the standards of living of marginalized communities living near protected areas. The absence of the legal and governance framework poses significant challenges to the sustainability and effectiveness of the community conservancies as it has led to many ambiguities in relation to wildlife resource rights, land tenure systems for the conservancies and access and benefit sharing mechanisms, among other operational challenges.

ZELA Land and Natural Resources unit lead, Ignatious Kudakwashe Maeresa, emphasized that the initiative to support the development of a legal and governance framework for community conservancies stemmed from the realization that the increased need for proactive conservation in Zimbabwe’s biodiversity-rich areas necessitates the regulation of conservancy operations.

“Working in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS) and Binga Rural District Council (RDC), we have embarked on this study to ascertain the issues that both communities and relevant stakeholders would like to be addressed by this legal framework. This complements already existing efforts to fortify community-level governance frameworks for environmental sustainability in Binga district,” he added.

As such, the baseline study also included key stakeholders in community conservation such as the Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) Association, Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Forestry Commission, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and community members in an all-inclusive information gathering process.

Maeresa explained that the need for a legal framework for community conservation could not be delayed any longer in a landscape where conservation meets livelihoods because community conservancies offer a pathway for harmonizing wildlife protection with the socio-economic needs of local communities.

“We have also noted that neighboring countries like Namibia have established legal frameworks supporting community conservancies and Zimbabwe lags in this crucial aspect, hampering effective governance and community participation in the region.

 “Therefore, as we embark on this journey to explore and enhance the legal landscape of community conservancies in Binga, we invite everyone to join us. Together, we can pave the way for sustainable conservation practices that empower local communities and safeguard our precious biodiversity for generations to come,” said Maeresa as he called for more community support for this initiative.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.