By Cecil Machena-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
South East Lowveld of Zimbabwe (SEL) is an arena of conflicts with natural
resources at the centre of it all. This brief paper is looking at the nature
of, causes and the extent of the conflicts and advocates for a framework for
promoting stakeholder cooperation and resources sharing as the key game changer
for the area.
altitude between 300 and 600 m above sea level, lies in agro-ecological region
V. It is a low rainfall area with average annual rainfall ranging from 450mm to
650mm and droughts are common. Mean annual temperature is between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius. Temperatures
of up to 40 degrees Celsius are not uncommon during summer, especially between
September and October. This places great stress on plant growth, particularly rain-fed
is exacerbated by climate change. Zimbabwe’s climate is projected to become
more erratic, with variable and unpredictable rainfall patterns, tropical
storms, floods and drought. Droughts are projected to increase in frequency and
severity (USAID, 2019).
Low lying areas such as SEL will be severely affected.
KEY ACTORS IN
NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
presents an interesting case of contrasting land tenure and land use regimes.
Privately owned wildlife conservancies, State owned protected areas, large
commercial estates (e.g. Triangle and Hippo Valley with 83 145 and 54 200
hectares of land
respectively) with irrigation and under freehold title and adjacent communal
lands under traditional property regimes are dominant features that define the
social and economic structure of the area.
State owns large protected areas, particularly the Gonarezhou National Park (5
575 sq. km in size), which is now linked to Kruger National Park in South
Africa, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique through the Great Limpopo
Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTP TFCA) opening up opportunities for
tourism related businesses in SEL. The private sector owns large wildlife
conservancies. The Save Valley Conservancy (SVC), with a total surface area of
3 442 sq. km, is a story of cattle ranching turned to wildlife management with
cattle ranchers pooling land to allow for management of wildlife populations on a landscape
scale, facilitated by the provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975.
The formation of the SVC was motivated by the relocation of the black rhino
from the Zambezi Valley in the 1980s following massive poaching. The black
rhino was relocated onto private ranches. The Parks and Wildlife Management
Authority encouraged the removal of fences separating ranches to increase the
range of the black rhino. This led to the formation of the “black rhino
conservancy.” The severe drought of 1991 / 1992 which decimated livestock and
made cattle ranching unprofitable left no doubt in the minds of the ranchers
that the route of the conservancy was the way to go. Other conservancies in SEL
include Malilangwe (400 sq. k), Bubiana, Bubi and Chiredzi. In terms of conservation
and related tourism business development, SVC constitutes an important core wildlife
area for populating surrounding communal areas and supporting rural development
in the same way national parks form the backbone of CAMPFIRE programmes. The
wildlife conservancies and commercial estates present a great contrast with
communities who live in adjacent communal areas.
shows the location of communal land and resettlement areas in relation to
Gonarezhou National Park and Save Valley Conservancy.
COMMUNITY LIVELIHOOD CHALLENGES AND
CONFLICTS IN SEL
communities live under communal property regimes. They experience severe
hardships and difficult livelihood situations as a result of economic,
political, social shocks as well as successive years of climate change induced
floods and droughts. These have roots in the colonial history of the country. The
colonial administration set up policies and laws that disenfranchised local
communities. The communities were evicted from their traditional lands, denied
access to resources on the lands they were evicted from and resettled under
crowded conditions in communal lands under communal property management regime
systems. This caused anger, lasting bitterness and frustrations. The difficult
livelihood situations include the following:
areas are congested with population densities ranging between 10 and 69 persons
per sq. km. Family landholdings are less than 50 ha whereas 400 ha constitute
the minimum requirement per family in SEL. This is the threshold landholding
size for family cropping and grazing needs to meet food security requirements.
dependence on rain-fed farming in the face of low rainfall of less than 500mm
per year and high temperatures leading to chronic food shortages, food
insecurity and poverty. Annual harvest last for 3 months as the
small household landholdings fail to support family food needs.
There is a
high dependence on remittances from urban areas, and support from NGOs and donors.
rights over natural resources are weak particularly under the Communal Areas
Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) programme. There are
serious constraints for communities in accessing natural resources critical for
household livelihoods. The pressure on the natural resources leads to severe
degradation of these resources.
vulnerabilities at household and community levels result in the reduced
resilience of livelihoods.
change and extreme weather events will worsen the livelihoods situation of the
inhabitants of the communal area which is already desperate.
communities saw in the liberation war an opportunity and hope of rectifying
racially imposed injustices and getting back their ancestral lands.
Unfortunately political independence in 1980 did not lead to correcting the
skewed access to natural resources. The status quo was largely maintained. This
is the reason for the widespread and violent land invasions that took place
from 2000 onwards; some twenty years after political independence. This has
left a huge dent in the wildlife business of the Save Valley Conservancy with
11 properties being settled on in the southern half. This is also the reason
behind the high level of poaching that is taking place in the Save Valley
Conservancy. Wildlife poaching in SEL is a respected “profession” in the local
community and this defines a level of community defiance to existing
conservation laws premised on the communally held feeling that the communities
have the right to appropriate wildlife resources within the ranches as they
were the original settlers of that land. On the other hand the ranchers look to
the law to deter illegal activities. The Ranchers react to poaching activities
by increasing the number of patrolling game scouts per unit area without
considering social pressures behind resource conflicts with communities. There
is a stand-off between the communities and the private sector. What is fairly
clear is that the high levels of conflict stand in the way of economic and social
development prospects in SEL.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN SEL
has economic development potential which can be realized by adopting an
integrated and multi-sectoral approach to growth by positioning wildlife and
irrigation as key drivers coupled with appropriate policy development. In the
ecological context of SEL, wildlife is a more environmentally appropriate and
economically rewarding form of land use than the current subsistence cropping
and livestock production. There is the need to focus on and invest in higher
valued land uses, diversification and intensification. This entails investing in
tourism ventures, community game ranching, community conservancies and the
volarisation of non-timber forest products. – decoupling wealth creation from
primary production. This puts both the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority
(PWLMA) and the private sector conservancies in a position to influence the
direction and pace of economic and social development in the area. These
stakeholders need to promote genuine public –private-community partnerships
(PPCPs). The partnership between River Lodges of Africa and the Mahenye
community is a pace setter. Opportunities in agriculture exist by investing in
intensive production under irrigation. Small-scale irrigation systems that were
developed and which have stopped functioning need to be rehabilitated and other
opportunities sought. Focus should on irrigation for markets at scales from
household gardens, outgrowers, to major industrial schemes. The soils are good
and irrigation prospects are strong. This will reduce reliance of dryland
cropping which has proved to be untenable.
stand-off between the communities and the private sector needs to be genuinely
tackled. The ranchers are detached from the problems communities face and look
at the satisfaction of the sanctity of property rights. The unfriendly social
and economic situation of the communities in the Valley sets the context within
which development interventions need to be gauged and understood. The challenge
is to bring about meaningful change to the poor people’s livelihoods. A good
understanding of these complex relationships and causal effects provides a
window for shaping considerations and crafting development initiatives and
interventions that take on board historically shaped perceptions. This calls
for investing in and developing appropriate institutions and policies.
Institutional development and linkages at different scales (local
organisation; co-management; Public – private – community partnership etc.
are needed for collaboration and growth.
it is important to establish conflict resolution mechanisms which bridge the
interests of poor communal and newly resettled farmers on the one hand and Gonarezhou
National Park and the wildlife conservancy owners. Ultimately, what is needed
is a framework for resource sharing bringing together the right mix of incentives that discourage poaching and
the destruction of wildlife habitats whilst at the same time taking care of the
livelihood needs of communal and newly resettled villagers. PWLMA needs to take
an unequivocal policy position in proffering strong property rights over
wildlife to the inhabitants of communal lands. Strong property rights will
strengthen community ownership of wildlife resources. Capacity building is
needed to help the communities develop strong governance institutions at the
local level. This will raise the position of the community to be an important
stakeholder and lead to effective community participation, decision making,
strategy formulation and implementation and increase benefit sharing. This will
put the communities in a position to negotiate for resource sharing with the conservancy
owners, PWLMA and other key stake holders and form partnerships in tourism
challenge in SEL is to build bridges between the communities, the new settlers
and the ranchers and develop a new level of understanding that will usher in
and define a new level of meaningful cooperation and collaboration. There is a
need for cooperation and partnership between the conservancies, the local
communitiesand the new farmers. This
may be the only way to create a win-win situation. The Government must not
abrogate its responsibility to develop the policies and create the environment
for bringing about the socio-economic development of the SEL
 USAID, 2019. Climate Risk Profile Zimbabwe. Fact Sheet
Thought Leadership and Assessments (ATLAS) Task Order No. AID-OAA-I-14-00013.
A and Pangeti E,S (1996): The Political Economy of the Sugar industry in