With the support of Trócaire, Zimbabwe Environmental Law
Association (ZELA) is ‘Promoting a Rights Based Approach to the Utilisation and
Management of Natural Resources by Smallholder Farmers. The main goal of the
project is to empower women and men in Bikita, Insiza, Gutu and Matobo to
actively engage and beneﬁt from sustainable and resilient livelihoods.
Through a rights-based approach, ZELA has sought to empower smallholder farmers to assert and claim their tenure rights over natural resources and to inﬂuence the formulation and implementation of laws and policies that encourage sustainable, equitable and joint management and use of natural resources. This has seen the organisation committing to offer support to Insiza Rural District Council in the development of natural resources and environmental management by-laws
Over the years, the public interest law organisation has continued to strengthen and empower farmers to meaningfully engage and participate in decision making processes. This came after the realization that natural resource governance context in Zimbabwe is characterized by limited community participation and lack of respect for the tenure rights of communities and farmers. Of concern is how mining supersedes other land use practices including agriculture. This results in conﬂicts over resources between miners and farmers which continues to be a bone of contention. The locals hope that the new Mining legislation which is awaiting approval will factor in issues of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
While unpacking the importance of participatory engagement in
development, ZELA Legal Advisor, Mr. Nqobizitha Ndlovu called on the locals to
identify the challenges they are seized with. While outlining these,
farmer-miner conflict, illegal and unregulated sand abstraction, failure to
fully benefit from forest produce, no laid-out boundaries and stray livestocks
came top of the agenda.
Farmer-miner conflict often emerges when mineral resources are discovered in a tract of land. In those instances when farmers try to chase away miners, clashes ensue resulting in clashes that sometimes turn bloody.
The locals also highlighted that they are aﬀected by illegal
sand abstraction by private companies or individuals who sell it. This affects
agricultural productivity since it causes soil erosion and, in some cases, sand
is abstracted from crop ﬁelds. In addition, illegal sand poaching causes
environmental damage by creating dongas and gullies. These
unrehabilitated pits have resulted the loss of agricultural land which
threatens livelihoods and food security.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Insiza District Environment Officer, Mr. Mgcinisihlalo Ndlovu noted that Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 enacted under the Environmental Management Act prohibits one from removing clay or sand deposit for commercial purposes without an EMA license.
The participants also expressed interest in the governance, management and utilisation of forest resources including ‘amacimbi’, that are replete in the District. Ndlovu outlined that according to the Communal Land Forest Produce Act and in terms of Section 4, the inhabitants of communal land have the right to exploit for their own use any forest produce within that communal land. On the other hand, the Forest Act regulates how farmers can utilize forest products and prescribes various offences and penalties.
He added that, Communities in Zimbabwe do not own sub-soil
resources such as minerals. In as much as the Communal Land Act vests ownership
of communal land in the President, the Mines and Minerals Act does the same. In
cases where minerals are discovered on land being occupied by local communities
(usually communal land), affected communities might be displaced from the land
to make way for mining operations. In the process of displacements, Free Prior
and Informed Consent should be undertaken.
Insiza Rural District Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Moyo informed participants that they will be signing a memorandum of understanding with ZELA in the not-so-distant future. The CEO appreciated the role played by Zimbabwe Project (ZIMPRO) and ZELA in empowering the locals including encouraging the development of waste management and environment by-laws.
ZELA is committed to review the by-laws to be developed in the
District that will also respond to the challenges being faced by the
communities which hinder them from fully realizing their rights.