Poverty Increases As Rural Communities Lose Resource Management

-A +A

[Global: Africa And Environment]

The declining momentum of community-based natural resource management movement in Southern Africa is threatening to erode major gains that were registered in the past two decades unless urgent steps are taken to revive this critical livelihood strategy for poverty alleviation and a sustainable environment.

Environmental experts who met recently to review community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) programs in the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, say the decline in the momentum of the implementation of the CBNRM programs is accelerating the rapid loss of biodiversity and wildlife.

They expressed concern over the rapid loss of the country’s biodiversity, wild life and other natural resources as rural communities are increasingly being sidelined by the rural district councils (RDCs) from benefiting from the natural resources.

Dr. David Mazambani, a key consultant for the Zimbabwe CBNRM stock taking exercise and community development expert told participants that the extent and quality of community participation has declined sharply in recent years in most Campfire sites as powerful local elites and RDCs capture all the benefits at the expense of local communities.

This, he said, has contributed significantly to the decline in community participation in CBNRM activities in Zimbabwe and in other countries within the Southern Africa Development Community.

In Zimbabwe, for example, he said, rural district councils who retained authority to make and break contracts with hunting and tourism operators tended to siphon off a huge chunk of the proceeds through various taxes and levies.

Lack of full devolution and continuing interference by RDCs made it difficult for local communities to actively participate in CBNRM activities. As a result, Dr. Mazambani said, poaching and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources was now rampant as communities saw no benefit from engaging in CBNRM activities.

Despite differing approaches, environmental experts generally define CBNRM as conservation that involves local communities in the management of natural resources. The rationale for community involvement in the management of natural resources stems from the fact that local communities that derive direct benefits from managing natural resources are better motivated to protect those resources.

It involves devolving control and management responsibilities to local people through appropriate legislation and biodiversity resource management frameworks using economic benefits to encourage communities to husband wildlife.

The CBNRM workshop aimed to take stock and assess the impact of CBNRM programs in Zimbabwe, identify lessons learnt and best practices, analyze and map out a strategy to scale up the activities as well as learning from the CBNRM experiences in Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Angola and Mozambique.

Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE program was a huge success in the 1980s and inspired ongoing regional natural resource management programs in other countries, including Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia and in most other developing countries. At its peak, the program attracted international attention and numerous research studies by academics from Britain, the US and other western countries as an alternative model for conservation of natural resources.

CAMPFIRE by then was frequently held up as a model from which other countries could draw lessons and environmentalist from as far away as Mongolia referred to the positive influence of Zimbabwe’s model.

Furthermore, evidence from CAMPFIRE studies done in Zimbabwe showed that poaching, which was widespread prior to the introduction of the CNBRM program, declined significantly as communities started to receive economic benefits and got training on conservation strategies and skills.

“We have done everything, but the reality on the ground is different. Where are we getting it wrong. Where are we getting things wrong in CBNRM,” said Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema at the workshop to take stock of CBNRM activities in Zimbabwe.

“In this room we have academics and experts with PhDs, MSc and all the experiences. Why are we not getting this knowledge out to help communities manage our natural resources? What can we do to get this message across? What are we doing to put these action plans into practice?”

Nhema expressed concern over the declining momentum of CBNRM movement in the country and called for the environmental experts to devise strategies to resuscitate the practice to arrest the rapid loss of biodiversity and wildlife.

“We need to put action plans in simple understandable language," Nhema added.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) coo-coordinator for the regional CBNRM program Godfrey Mitti said countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region needed to take urgent practical steps to mainstream CBNRM into national and rural development strategies to help conserve natural resources and improve livelihoods.

“We need to promote vibrant national and regional CBNRM networks and promote an enabling policy environment for sustainable development practices,” he said.

He said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) approved funding for CBNRM programs in southern Africa to promote CBNRM as an appropriate conservation and development strategy. A total of US$1 million has been set aside for the program that aims to strengthen networks of CBNRM service providers across the region. Zimbabwe benefits from some $100,000 for its in country programs a year.

Mitti hopes the funding will help consolidate the gains that were made in the past two decades and revive the vibrancy of CBNRM programs in southern Africa.

CBNRM programs have in the past contributed to infrastructural development, employment creation, strengthening community cohesion to protect common interest over natural resources, facilitated linkages between NGOs and government agencies, increased wildlife numbers, enhanced community ownership of and stewardship over natural resources and the minimisation of conflicts.

In addition, CBNRM projects have influenced the growth of tourism-based small business enterprises, raising awareness on the importance of conserving natural resources, the development of NRM syllabi in schools, environmental policy development and increased appreciation of the value of wildlife and natural resources.

The CAMPFIRE program in Zimbabwe generated some US$10 million making an impact on the country’s gross domestic product.

Despite the benefits, environmental experts say political and economic challenges, lack of capacity by RDCs to trickle the benefits to local communities, political interference, lack of devolution to rural communities, CAMPFIRE structural design problems, bureaucracy and over reliance on donor funding have eroded the momentum of the CBNRM movement in southern Africa leading to conflicts, rapid loss of biodiversity and natural resources.

“Everything starts and ends with the environment. Natural resources are the pillar of our country. They are the basis of our existence,” Nhema concluded.

Tsiko is The Black Star News' Southern Africa Correspondent based in Harare

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

Also Check Out...

the new program specifically aims to address the larger question of what factors contribute to many Black and other minority bus
Black and minority-owned
Jimmie Lee Jackson and James Reeb––ignited the now historic march from Selma to Montgomery
New Book Chronicles 1965 Murders
“These are the conversations Black journalists are having amongst themselves every day,” says Schiavocampo.
Award-Winning Black Journalists
 federal agencies tapping protesters’ phones in Portland
Wyden presses DHS on “
Ethiopia, Algeria and Nigeria, have struggled with bigger outbreaks, most countries on
Africa has held off the worst of
Mobs of white citizens often burned down Black communities' schools while government officials stood by and watched.
Do America's Public Schools