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The economics and institutional economics of wildlife on private land in Africa


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In southern Africa, there are now 10,000 to 14,000 private ranchers that promote wildlife enterprises alone or in some in combination with domestic livestock. An important conservation success, this new bio-experience economy also creates social well-being through economic growth and job creation. It is an economic sector that needs to be taken seriously, not least because it pioneers policies that inform the valorization and sustainable management of ecosystem services. The article describes the historical emergence of a sustainable use approach to wildlife conservation since the Arusha Conference in 1963. It suggests that indigenous multi-species systems may have ecological advantages over modern livestock production systems, but these are difficult to quantify in complex dryland ecosystems and are trumped by economics and political processes. However, wildlife provides the foundation for a bio-experience economy that has a decided comparative economic advantage over agro-extractive commodity production (like beef) in drylands. We describe how new policy approaches, especially the valorization of wildlife and the devolution of proprietorship to landholders and communities, have allowed wildlife's economic advantages to be reflected in land use decisions through both ‘game ranching’ and ‘community-based natural resource management’. Institutional changes have modified the economics of wildlife in drylands, promoting both conservation and development by allocating environmental raw materials to higher-order goods and services. A further goal of the paper is to describe practical economic methods for assessing and explaining the wildlife sector to policy makers in terms of its profitability, both to individual landholders and to society through jobs and economic growth. The paper covers a 50-year period between the PhD studies of the four authors and takes a trans disciplinary approach which values the knowledge of practitioners as much as the academic literature.
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R E V I E W Open Access
The economics and institutional economics
of wildlife on private land in Africa
Brian A Child
, Jessica Musengezi
, Gregory D Parent
and Graham F T Child
* Correspondence:
Stellenbosch Institute for
Advanced Studies (STIAS),
Wallenberg Research Centre at
Stellenbosch University, Marais
Street, Stellenbosch 7600, South
Full list of author information is
available at the end of the article
In southern Africa, there are now 10,000 to 14,000 private ranchers that promote
wildlife enterprises alone or in some in combination with domestic livestock. An
important conservation success, this new bio-experience economy also creates social
well-being through economic growth and job creation. It is an economic sector that
needs to be taken seriously, not least because it pioneers policies that inform the
valorization and sustainable management of ecosystem services. The article describes
the historical emergence of a sustainable use approach to wildlife conservation since
the Arusha Conference in 1963. It suggests that indigenous multi-species systems
may have ecological advantages over modern livestock production systems, but
these are difficult to quantify in complex dryland ecosystems and are trumped by
economics and political processes. However, wildlife provides the foundation for a
bio-experience economy that has a decided comparative economic advantage over
agro-extractive commodity production (like beef) in drylands. We describe how new
policy approaches, especially the valorization of wildlife and the devolution of
proprietorship to landholders and communities, have allowed wildlife's economic
advantages to be reflected in land use decisions through both game ranchingand
community-based natural resource management. Institutional changes have
modified the economics of wildlife in drylands, promoting both conservation and
development by allocating environmental raw materials to higher-order goods and
services. A further goal of the paper is to describe practical economic methods for
assessing and explaining the wildlife sector to policy makers in terms of its
profitability, both to individual landholders and to society through jobs and
economic growth. The paper covers a 50-year period between the PhD studies of
the four authors and takes a trans disciplinary approach which values the knowledge
of practitioners as much as the academic literature.
Keywords: Wildlife economics, Wildlife conservation, Game ranching, Sustainable
use, Southern Africa
This provides a review of the economic evolution of the private wildlife sector in
southern Africa since the 1960s. It is intended to be accessible to a wide readership
(not just economists or wildlife managers). It draws on the academic literature but also
on considerable practitioner knowledge networks including gray and oral literature. It
describes the history of the wildlife sector from the perspective of the economic princi-
ples and lessons that are emerging from this policy experiment. Our purpose is to
© 2012 Child et al.; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18
describe the evolution of a sustainable use (or neo-liberal) approach to wildlife manage-
ment (SASUSG 1996; Martin 2009), which is underrepresented in the literature relative
to alternative paradigms of conservation and development.
We evaluate the economics of wildlife using the private sector experience for meth-
odological reasons, although this economy is smaller than the wildlife economy based
on Africa's protected areas, less scalable to Africa's extensive drylands than
community-based wildlife management, and under political scrutiny because of its ra-
cial history. However, stronger property rights and a gradual shift from administrative
to free-market competitive pricing mean that pricing is less distorted and economic
evaluation is more reliable on private land. Evaluating the economics of drylands is dif-
ficult at the best of times because internalizing the full costs and benefits of resources
like water, grazing, and wildlife is complicated because they are fugitive in space and
time, while ecological processes such as carbon and water cycles and soil processes are
complex and nonlinear, making the attribution of costs and benefits difficult.
The political economy of natural resources further muddies the economic waters.
Historically, wildlife has been monopolized (e.g., protected areas) and heavily regulated
by the state, and market signals violate many of the assumptions needed for a sound
economic analysis given the recent and partial shift from centralized planning to
market-based approaches. Wildlife also coexists with pastoralists and subsistence farm-
ers who are politically marginalized, with limited and contradictory rights (e.g., of ex-
clusion and use) to natural resources. Thus, economic signals are distorted by a
combination of state monopolies, regulation, administrative pricing, weak institutions
and/or predatory governance, and confused or open-access property regimes, making
economic analysis near impossible. Market failure, an economic term that refers to the
gap between the actual price of a good and its real value, is pervasive.
On private land in southern Africa and, indeed, where private land exists elsewhere
in Africa's drylands, the shift from livestock to wildlife is widely acknowledged but not
reliably quantified. There are reported to be some 9,000 game ranchesin South Africa
alone plus over 15,000 which combine wildlife with livestock (Cousins et al. 2008). The
rapid expansion of the wildlife sector mirrors the growth in the regional and global
bio-tourism industry and is reflective of shifting global terms of trade. The South
African game ranching sector has expanded at between 5% and 20% annually in the last
decade, whereas real farm incomes have declined by 5.3% (Dry 2010a, b; Jenkins 2011).
Game ranching is a diverse sector that combines ecotourism, the sale of live animals,
several forms of hunting, and as a by-product, meat production. Prime wildlife areas
generate large amounts of income and employment from tourism, while trophy hunting
is geographically more extensive and a reliable form of income where wildlife popula-
tions are recovering or in areas of limited tourism potential. Hunting is critical in the
transition from cattle ranching back to multi-species production systems, except where
large amounts of capital are available for restocking, because it utilizes only 2% to 3%
of wildlife populations that can biologically expand at 10% to 30%. The markets for
hunting also appear to be larger and more robust than is often assumed, and both the
supply and price of trophy animals has been rising steadily in southern Africa since the
mid-1970s (Booth 2002, 2009; Lindsey et al. in press). For example, elephants sold for
US dollars $250 in the late 1970s and are now worth $12,000 to $20,000 in trophy fees
and up to $65,000 when we include outfitter fees. This suggests that upscaling of
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 2 of 32
trophy hunting and ecotourism is possible without tumbling prices. The southern
African wildlife sector is a tiny share of the global tourism and hunting market, and
tourism is a cluster industry that benefits from economies of scale and from trends in
global terms of trade. By contrast, beef commodity prices have been stagnating globally
for nearly four decades (albeit with a significant upturn in the last two years). Beef pro-
duction has also shifted steadily away from the drylands since the 1960s following
technological advanceslike grain feeding, nitrogen supplementation, and feedlots,
while Africa's drylands are unlikely to be competitive with large-scale meat production
in Argentina, Brazil, or the USA.
Land use trends on private land, together with the data summarized in this paper,
confirm that the bio-experience economy based on the multiple uses of wildlife is an
increasingly serious industry. It is beginning to be included in national agricultural sta-
tistics, especially in South Africa, though it is not yet well quantified because of its di-
versity compared to commodity markets. As an example of the magnitude of this
sector, private land hunting alone is worth over US $one billion in South Africa. Even
the casual observer can see that Africa's famous protected areas have significant
impacts on the growth of nearby urban centers like Arusha (Tanzania), Kasane, Maun
(Botswana) as well as national capitals.
The purpose of this paper is to present the case for wildlife as a profitable form of
land use in semiarid savannas, creating more jobs and economic growth than meat
commodity production. For ecological and economic reasons, the bio-experience econ-
omy is a legitimate development option. With a more favorable policy environment, it
could be applied on a much broader scale than is currently the case, especially if it can
be adapted to Africa's communal area circumstances through approaches like
community-based natural resource management. Furthermore, these economic advan-
tages are increasing. Global terms of trade are moving in favour of the bio-experience
economy; the wildlife sector is a new industry with considerable potential for adding
value through product diversification and development, and it is synergistic with eco-
system services like water and carbon that are as undervalued as wildlife was several
decades ago.
In focusing this paper on presenting the economic case for wildlife, we are not taking
an either-or approachto economic alternatives. Our aim is to maximize the well-being
of people living in marginal areas in environmentally sustainable ways, with wildlife
conservation contributing to this in areas where it has a comparative advantage. None-
theless, we cannot avoid the implications that meat commodity production through
livestock or wildlife is economically and environmentally questionable in drylands.
White minority regimes supported cattle ranchers with significant subsidies for several
decades, but when these were removed in the transition to black majority rule, the beef
economy in drylands was shown to be financially marginal and ecologically hazardous,
and many of these landholders only survived by adding or switching to wildlife opera-
tions (Child 1988; Grossman and Gandar 1989).
Unlike beef commodity production, traditional livestock systems have multiple values
(e.g., milk, meat, cash, and store of value). This may give them financial and ecological
advantages, but in the absence of recent or detailed long-term studies of these systems
that include the costs of labour and environmental capital, we are safer to assume that
they are unlikely to outperform commercial systems by a factor of two. In other words,
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 3 of 32
their viability is still questionable, and we are irresponsible if we do not question the as-
sumption that dryland animal production can meaningfully address poverty. While we
claim no expertise in pastoral economics, our livelihood surveys (unpublished data)
from Shorobe and Sankuyu communities in northern Botswana suggest that household
poverty is higher, and income distribution far more skewed, in communities that de-
pend on livestock (Shorobe) than those with wildlife (Sankuyo). Additional data from
communal lands in South Africa (see below) suggest that the economic output commu-
nal land is low. While beyond the scope of this paper, rural people in the drylands of
southern Africa are vulnerable to extreme poverty and appear to be surviving more on
wages, remittances, and government transfer payments than on local production. Gen-
erally speaking, livestock are kept primarily for cultural reasons and as a mechanism of
savings and coping with risk. It is also significant that they are an asset that can be pri-
vately owned and used to harvest natural resources in situations where people generally
have limited rights to valorize, manage, or exclude others from theirnatural resources.
This paper is about the wildlife economy and its potential to drive development.
The challenge of scaling up this economic model and adjusting it to the livelihoods
of the rural poor in Africa's communal drylands moves beyond the economic model it-
self to the challenges of transferring it in difficult political, institutional capacity and
demographic circumstances. This policy response in southern Africa has been labeled
community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Since the mid-1980s,
CBNRM has attempted to replicate the economic success of wildlife on private land in
the complex institutional circumstances of Africa's communal areas (Martin 1986;
Metcalfe 1993; Jones and Murphree 2004; Child and Barnes 2010) by attempting de-
volving full rights to use, manage, and benefit from wildlife to communities as had been
done for private game ranchers (Murphree 1994), albeit falling short of this intention
(Martin 2009). On the one hand, it is naïve to suggest that wildlife can resolve poverty
for millions of people in drylands, but on the other, CBNRM has clearly benefited both
people and wildlife where it has been implemented with some level of competence
(Child et al. 2003; NACSO 2006). However, in several countries where superior wildlife
resources could clearly benefit people, this has not occurred (Nelson and Blomley 2009;
Nelson 2010). We fall on the side of the debate that the problem lies more with imple-
mentation than with the model itself (Hulme and Murphree 2001), which often falls far
short of best practice because communities are not really empowered to use, manage,
and benefit from wildlife (or for most natural resources that matter) (Martin 2009;
Ribot et al. 2010).
Although strongly associated with wildlife, CBNRM in southern Africa can be inter-
preted as a new institutional model that links payments for ecological services to pov-
erty reduction (Child 2004a, Frost and Bond 2008), which is applicable to many
ecosystem services, but just happens to take advantage of the value of wildlife and op-
portunities that arose because wildlife provided an institutional greenfield. We certainly
need such models. Ecosystem services have been valued at several times global gross
domestic product (GDP) (Costanza et al. 1997), but we seldom take this into account
in land use decisions. Indeed, the challenge of our generation may well be to internalize
the costs and benefits of ecosystem services in the livelihoods and land use decisions of
the rural people who coexist with biodiversity in the manner that has been attempted
for wildlife. For example, the models of micro-governance and household cash payment
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 4 of 32
systems developed in some community wildlife programs (Child 2004a, b, 2006) are
currently being replicated with REDD payments in Tanzania (Morgan Brown, personal
communication). In other words, wildlife provides both a valuable resource for many
drylands and also a new model with economic, institutional, and governance compo-
nents that may be transferable to other natural resources and ecosystem services. This
paper addresses only the economic component of this approach.
New approaches to wildlife conservation
Beginning in the 1950s, conservationists in southern and East Africa began to develop
a new paradigm for conservation based on sustainable use of natural resources
(SASUSG 1996). Leading this policy experimentation was private game ranching, espe-
cially in southern Africa. Although this has been a highly successful conservation and
economic initiative, relatively little is published about it or about the economic re-
search, methods, and principles behind this growth. Private wildlife conservation or
game ranchingstrongly influenced the new vision of conservation and development
that arose to prominence during the 1980s and 1990s (Martin 2009). The basic message
of the sustainable use approach is that wild resources and ecosystem services are enor-
mously valuable. If we change the ways that we govern them and if we can place land-
holders and rural communities at the junction of benefit and management, wild
resources can pay for themselves and simultaneously address rural poverty and envir-
onmental injustice. At the time these ideas were introduced, they were radical, encom-
passing three major conceptual strands (Hulme and Murphree 2001):
that the state should devolve proprietorship, including the responsibility for and
benefits from managing wild resources, to the landholders and the communities that
live with them;
that natural resources should be exploited sustainably and as profitably as possible
to achieve both conservation and development goals; and
that the neo-liberal concepts of markets, property, and exchange should play a
greater role in shaping incentives for conservation and allocating resources to their
highest valued uses.
Game ranching provides an example of how practitioners simplified a plethora of
principles into one overarching guiding statement: to maximize the benefits from
wildlife to the people on whose land it lives(Child 1995). It is also an example of the
centrality of institutions or the formal rules or informal norms that frame human
conduct (North 1990) to the relationships between people, economy and nature, and
the process of modifying these institutions in ways that were insightful, carefully
crafted (Borgerhoff Mulder and Coppolillo 2005), and changed the outlook for wildlife
in Africa.
Brief history of wildlife use
We can view the wildlife economy in four phases (Table 1). In the pre-modern econ-
omy, wildlife was plentiful, and the primary constraint to use was the technology and
costs of harvesting it. This was followed by a frontier economyassociated with the In-
dustrial Revolution and the exploration and settlement of Africa by Europeans. New
technology and markets, including guns, wagons, and even railways, radically altered
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 5 of 32
the economy of wildlife and enabled hunters to harvest vast numbers of wildlife at a
low cost to sell in new urban and global markets. In the absence of institutions for con-
trolling offtake, wildlife, including North America's vast herds of bison, was decimated
in a classic case of market failure whereby individuals internalize benefits but
externalize costs to society.
In response to this, wildlife was nationalized. In 1900 and 1933, the European powers
met in London to respond to the perceived extirpation of wildlife in their African col-
onies, making three policy decisions with long-lasting implications (Heijnsbergen
1997). First, they encouraged the formation of state protected areas, which led to the
formation of Africa's spectacular national parks and now support vibrant economies
when managed effectively. Second, they greatly restricted the commercial use of wild-
life, rendering wildlife valueless except for low-value subsistence uses. Third, they cen-
tralized ownership of wildlife in the state, disenfranchising landholders and taking upon
themselves the burden of protecting wildlife from people (anti-poaching) and pro-
tecting people from wildlife (problem animal control). In some countries, local com-
munities were severely disenfranchised, especially where traditional methods of hunting
were made illegal and ownership of firearms was restricted (Carruthers 1989;
Brockington and Igoe 2006). But in others, like Zambia and Botswana, local people
were given considerable freedom to hunt under permit systems that often became diffi-
cult to administer (Astle 1999).
ThepolicyresponseembeddedintheLondon Conventionbecame widely accepted,
sometimes dogmatically, as the way conservation should be done: a combination of pris-
tineparks and non-utilization of wildlife on land outside them, with wildlife as a priceless
but commercially valueless asset, funded by the state and managed on its behalf by a small
band of dedicated game rangers. However, by the late 1950s, population growth and the
rapid spread of agriculture and livestock were causing an inexorable decline of Africa's
unique and spectacular wildlife. At the twilight of colonial Africa, many leading conserva-
tionists met at the Arusha Conference on the Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources in Modern African States, emphasizing that a radical new approach was needed
to conserve wildlife (IUCN 1963). This, the delegates said, needed to be led by Africans, and
wildlife needed to become an economic asset according to the emerging useitorloseit
philosophy. Thus, the opening comments of the conference proceedings emphasize:
Only by the planned utilization of wildlife as a renewable natural resources, either
for protein or as a recreational attraction, can its conservation and development be
Table 1 Phases in the political economy of wildlife
Phase Features
1. Pre-modern economy Use is limited by ability/costs of harvesting
2. Frontier economy Costs of harvesting greatly reduced by technology.
Profits increased by markets.
But few rules or norms to control use
3. Wildlife is nationalized Control of wildlife centralized in the state
Commercial use greatly restricted
4. Sustainable use approach Use of wildlife devolved to landholders (and later, to communities)
Commercial uses encouraged
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 6 of 32
economically justified in competition with agriculture, stock ranching and other forms
of land use (p19, IUCN 1963).
The emergence of wildlife utilization
Conservationists began to argue that wildlife was better suited to using Africa's harsh envir-
onments than the domestic monocultures imported from Europe because, to quote again
fromtheArushaConference,the variety of ungulate fauna, their mobility, high standing bio-
mass, and greater nutritional efficiency is seen to give them advantages over domestic live-
stock that concentrate their attention on a single constituent of the plant standing-crop
biomass - the graminacious carpet (p19, IUCN 1963). Nonetheless, by 1980 fully, some 95%
of the large herbivore biomass in southern Africa was livestock (Cumming and Bond 1991).
The 1950s and 1960s saw unprecedented research into the ecology of wildlife, its
meat production potential, and even domestication (Talbot et al. 1961; Talbot et al.
1965; Mossman 1975). Cropping schemes were initiated, mostly in East Africa, and
well-known conservationists like George Adamson and others (in Kenya), and Norman
Carr (Zambia) proposed schemes whereby local people would benefit from wildlife
(IUCN 1963; Parker 2004). The United Nation's African Special Project was developed
to assess and invest in the potential for wildlife as an economic tool in Africa (Riney
and Hill 1967), including the establishment of national parks and game reserves (e.g.,
Botswana) and cropping schemes (e.g., Luangwa Valley, Zambia). However, with the
transition from colonial to African rule in East Africa, the control of wildlife was in-
creasingly centralized (Kabiri 2010), and policy momentum shifted to southern Africa
where there was considerable discussion about the potential value of wildlife (Riney
1960; Dasmann 1964), and experimental game cropping was initiated (Dasmann and
Mossman 1961). By the late 1960s, the heads of wildlife agencies in southern Africa
began meeting annually through the Standing Committee for Nature Conservation and
the Management and Use of Wildlifeof the Southern African Regional Commission
for the Conservation and Utilization of the Soil. Soon thereafter, we see legislation
emerging in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, and South Africa's provinces
allowing landholders to use their wildlife commercially and with far fewer state-
imposed restrictions (Child 1971; Suich and Child 2009). When it became apparent
that permits and surveys were impractical and that landholders husbanded valuable
wildlife just as they husbanded their domestic stock, regulatory requirements were
reduced. In Zimbabwe, they were virtually removed by the bold Parks and Wild Life
Act of 1975.
Ecology and commodity (meat) production
Early research and discussions focused on wildlife's ecological adaptations to Africa's
climate and diseases (Mossman 1975) and the ability of wildlife to produce more meat,
or better quality meat, than livestock (Talbot et al. 1965). It suggested that wildlife pro-
duced high-quality meat but that the logistical challenges of cropping free-ranging wild
animals reduced potential profits. Research then turned to the relative suitability of di-
verse multi-species production systems compared to livestock monocultures. In elegant
studies, ecologists noted how the diversity of wildlife was matched to the diversity of
vegetation and threats from predators (Jarman 1973), and that semiarid savannas in
particular evolved under indigenous multi-species systems typically carrying 15 to 25
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 7 of 32
ungulate species compared to a maximum of five domestic species (Cumming 1982;
Cumming 1995). Scientists were surprised at how much overlap there was in the diet-
ary preferences of wild herbivores, but it was also argued that diet separation and the
fact that gregarious wildlife was invariably mobile helped to maintain ecological bal-
ance, especially between the woody and grass components of savannas (Taylor and
Walker 1978; Child 1995). Ecologists noted that production in many African range-
lands was water limited (Coe et al. 1976; Bell 1982) and emphasized the importance of
the grass layer in absorbing rainfall and making it available to plants (Kelly and Walker
1976). Degradationwas thought to be synonymous with the loss of perennial grasses,
which maintained the structure of the soil surface and absorbed water (Riney 1963;
Walker 1987). Overgrazing or frequent incorrect burning of the grass layer could tip
the crucial balance between grass and trees (Riney 1963; Mahesh Sankaran et al. 2005)
into a new (and less productive) stable state from which recovery was difficult
(Campbell and Child 1971; Walker et al. 2004).
Important and interesting as this research was, researchers were marching down a
blind alley in comparing the relative ability of wildlife and livestock to produce meat.
The meat productive potential of semiarid rangelands was ecologically limited, regard-
less of species. Increasing animal production reduced the health of the grass layer (and
water infiltration where water was the limiting factor), thus undermining itself. In other
words, meat production was ecologically limited, and attempts to move beyond these
limits ultimately failed as we see later with private beef ranching in Zimbabwe. Ultim-
ately, the solution lay not in choosing between wildlife and livestock for meat produc-
tion but in adding value in ways that was not directly linked to extraction from the
environment, such as experiences or luxury goods like trophy animals. Seen retrospect-
ively, wildlife scientists mistakenly thought in terms of commodity production (like the
agricultural agencies of the time) rather than improving the economic allocation of
resources to add value. In the end, institutional adaptation and the development of new
markets by farmers, not production technology, provided commercial solutions for ran-
chers through a shift from agro-extractive beef commodity production to a bio-
experience economy.
Dysfunctional legal systems and human-wildlife relationships
In the twentieth century, white settlers acquired land in southern and East Africa, and
African agriculture and populations grew rapidly. Prior to World War II (WWII), the
new conservation laws were directed mainly at white commercial hunters, and local
hunting for the pot was usually overlooked (Parker 2004). But as rural populations
grew, local hunting began to threaten wildlife, was increasingly treated as poaching,
and prosecuted by the state. Criminalizing a traditional livelihood strategy like hunting
created a powerful sense of injustice, especially when enacted by colonial governments
that lacked political legitimacy. Poachersbecame Robin Hoods and were protected by
their communities, so wildlife laws were difficult to implement. This also created a
negative relationship between local people, wildlife, and the state.
Setting the state up against the people was never likely to result in sustainable solu-
tions for wildlife. In pre-independence Zimbabwe, for instance, protectionist conserva-
tion alienated white farmers from wildlife and became an important political tool in the
hands of black nationalists by highlighting the injustice of white minority rule. Even
today, some national wildlife agencies expropriate the benefits of wildlife for themselves
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 8 of 32
and their cronies and treat local poachersbrutally, so pastoral people who are natural
allies of wildlife, are planting fields in important wildlife areas, mostly to protect their
land rights (Nelson 2010).
One outcome of these dysfunctional policies is the false impression that local people
hate wildlife. Our surveys of local people across southern Africa show that people are
often extremely concerned about the impact of wildlife on their crops and livestock
(and the ineffective management of this problem), yet over 90% of people claim to like
wildlife (or to like it a lot) for both aesthetic and material reasons. What they do not
like, however, is the inequity of wildlife laws and the high-handed manners of officials
who implement them; they like wildlife, and even protected areas, but not the wildlife
officials or laws. This situation is beginning to improve with the advent of CBNRM in
countries like Namibia and Botswana.
Protectionist, centralized wildlife legislation, from urbanized and wealthy industrial
nations, was politically unjust and economically flawed, causing enormous losses of
wildlife in developing, rural societies after WWII as agriculture expanded. The 1940s to
the 1970s were the heyday of agriculture. Cattle ranchers complained that you cannot
farm in a zooand wildlife was steadily exterminated (Taylor 2002). Newspaper clip-
pings in Zimbabwe dramatize cases where cattle ranchers shot large numbers of wilde-
beest and zebra and (having no legal commercial use) left them to rot in the veld.
However, the bigger threat was more subtle: the fencing of water points and livestock
overgrazing eliminated wildlife for lack of food and water.
The perspectives and contributions of private landholders
We use a series of case studies to describe the shift back to wildlife, which began slowly
led by a few maverick cattle ranches and then accelerated into a landscape-wide phe-
nomena. In the Lowveld of Zimbabwe, for example, the late George Style of Buffalo
Range Ranch (20,000 ha) had a penchant for wildlife. From the mid-1950s, he devel-
oped a successful cattle business, fencing paddocks and providing artificial water. The
eastern section of his ranch was bounded by the Chiredzi River, which for decades pro-
vided wildlife and livestock with permanent water in the dry season (Figure 1). Conse-
quently, this part of the ranch (some 9,000 ha) was degraded, and George Style
experimented with wildlife as much as a hobby as for commercial reasons. Browsers
like eland, kudu, and impala thrived, and the sensitive grazing species like sable, roan,
and Lichtenstein's hartebeest displaced by cattle began to recover. Style culled impala
to be sold through his butcheries and soon (early 1970s) initiated mini-safariswith for-
eign hunting clients in a well-appointed hunting camp.
George and his son, Clive, encouraged the use of their ranch for comparative re-
search. Detailed vegetation transects showed that cattle grazing damaged perennial
grasses and the soil surface, largely because of the continuously high stocking necessary
to keep a beef enterprise viable, whereas the range was slowly recovering under wildlife
(Taylor and Walker 1978; Child 1988) (Figure 2). Overstocking appeared to directly
damage range productivity, with the pattern of cumulative overstocking (i.e., stocking
rate in each year less predicted carrying capacity calculated from rainfall using the for-
mula from Coe et al. 1976) matching a rapid decline in cattle calving rates (Child 1988)
(Figure 3) and ultimately destroying the profitability of the livestock enterprise on
Buffalo Range. This experience was shared by many cattle ranchers in the Lowveld
(PriceWaterhouse 1994; Taylor 2002), who began to switch to wildlife enterprises, some
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 9 of 32
partially, some completely, and some as groups of landholders over large blocks of land,
especially after losing livestock in the severe droughts of 1984 and 1992 (Taylor 2002;
Lindsay et al. 2009).
The beginnings of safari hunting on private land
On most properties, the switch to wildlife was gradual. Many cattle ranchers survived
financially by using remnant populations of wildlife for safari hunting. With good rev-
enues and few overhead costs, wildlife initially supplemented cattle ranching, but later,
some ranchers switched over entirely. Hunting guests from North America or Europe
stayed with the rancher for seven to ten days, initially in a spare bedroom and later in
specially built accommodation. Each day, they would go out early in the morning or in
the late afternoon, shooting roughly one animal a day. These were called plains-game
Figure 2 Changes in grass cover and grazing intensity on Buffalo Range ranch between 1973 and
Figure 1 Map of Buffalo Range Cattle and Game Ranch.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 10 of 32
safarisbecause they relied on species like kudu, zebra, wildebeest, impala, and warthog.
Ranchers then improved their hunting product by nurturing or reintroducing valuable
species like eland, sable, waterbuck, and even predators like leopard, and later by add-
ing big game like elephant and buffalo, usually as part of multi-property conservancies.
But to do this, they began to improve environmental management by reducing stocking
rates and habitat fragmentation by removing cattle fences and scaling up to multi-
property management units. Cattle ranchers like George Style spent many days in the
field hunting and developed considerable knowledge about the habits and needs of
wildlife, which spread through farmer field days. Under natural conditions, wildlife is
highly mobile to respond to highly variable savanna rainfall, and ranchers defragmented
their land with simple (and cost-saving) measure like removing one strand from con-
ventional four-strand cattle fences, allowing species like kudu and eland to jump over
them, and wildebeest and warthog to duck under them. Similarly, they stopped fencing
water points and modified conventional cattle water troughs to enable wildlife to drink.
They catered for the specific needs of valuable species like sable, which struggle to
compete with cattle, and managed diseases like snotsiekte(malignant catarrh) by en-
suring that their cattle were separated from wildebeest at calving time, during which
transmission from wildebeest to cattle occurs.
Cattle Productivity
(calving rates)
Cumulative overstocking
Calving rates (%)
1970 1975 1980 1985
1970 1975 1980 1985
Cumulative overstocking =stocking rate – carrying capacity (rainfall). Calculatedusing Coe et al (1976)
Figure 3 The relationship between range condition and cattle productivity on Buffalo Range ranch
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 11 of 32
Trophy hunting is sustainable; meat production very risky
Although it runs counter to the moral argument, hunting animals for meat should not be
encouraged whereas killing them for sport provides a powerful conservation tool. The re-
covery of wildlife over much of southern Africa has gone hand-in-hand with trophy hunt-
ing, which is a robust, low-risk solution for two reasons: (1) the mathematics of
population biology and (2) the transparency of safari hunting markets. An offtake of 2% to
3% provides a steady supply of quality trophy males compared to population growth rates
of 10% to 30%, so ranchers like George Style made good profits from safari hunting at the
same time when wildlife populations recovered rapidly. Trophy hunting (unlike meat pro-
duction) is profitable and ecologically robust, even more so because trophy hunting mar-
kets are personalized and information-rich, so hunting clients quickly avoid outfitters who
over-hunt with below-average trophy (horn) size. Indeed, the ecological challenge on suc-
cessful game ranches like Buffalo Range is seldom too little wildlife, but too much. George
Style culled hundreds of impala to protect the environment and allow greater diversity of
wildlife even though game meat production seldom covered costs.
In contrast to safari hunting, which is ecologically robust and profitable, commercial
or subsistence wildlife meat production is ecologically risky and economically question-
able. Meat is a ubiquitous low-value commodity without the market checks and bal-
ances associated with hunting trophies. We need to kill at least 20 times as many
animals to generate the same income from meat as from trophy hunting, and the costs
are much higher. On private land, bushmeat is seldom viable except as a by-product of
more lucrative hunting and tourism businesses, with the implication that bushmeat
poaching is viable only because the harvester externalizes many costs to society. The
safest conclusion is that meat production in drylands, either from livestock or wildlife,
is seldom viable if the full financial and environmental costs and benefits are accounted
for. It has not succeeded on private land, and we extend economic models based on
bushmeat production to rural communities at our peril.
Developing an economic understanding of wildlife production
Trophy hunting is worth more than a billion dollars in South Africa alone (Flack, per-
sonal communication), yet data and publications on private wildlife conservation in
southern Africa are sparse. The purposes of this section are to summarize, with in-
creasing sophistication, methods used to understand the economics of the private wild-
life sector, to influence policy making in the past 25 years, and to use case studies to
illustrate how the wildlife sector has emerged.
Shortly after Zimbabwe's Independence in 1980, one of the authors (Brian Child) was
recruited by the wildlife department to conduct economic research and extension on
game ranching (1984 to 1989). By spending extensive time with game and cattle ranchers,
he gained their confidence, learned how much they knew about wildlife, and worked with
them to understand the economics of their wildlife and livestock enterprises. Data from
22 cattle ranchers at the wetter limits of rangelands in the Zimbabwean Midlands in 1984
(Vincent and Thomas 1961) showed that safari hunting was easily the primary wildlife ac-
tivity, with income comprised as follows: guiding (35%), trophy fees (46%), meat from tro-
phy animals (13%), and meat cropping (7%). All but one of these landholders was
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 12 of 32
Gross income (turnover) and net margins (profits)
Livestock, which comprised 80% of herbivore biomass, generated most of the income
in the area (Table 2), but when variable costs were deducted, livestock profits were
(Zimbabwean dollar) Z$4.52/ha compared to Z$2.93 from wildlife. All values for Zim-
babwean research are stated in 1984/86 Z$ when US$1=Z$1.3 A new financial ratio (i.
e., profit/kg livemass) that we invented to reflect the ecological reality that grass was
the limiting factor (see above) showed that, from 1 kg of livemass, wildlife earned 17c
and cattle earned 7c, suggesting that, at the margin, it paid landholders to reallocate
grazing from livestock with wildlife. A similar survey of 15 properties and 446,818 ha
in the more arid Lowveld in 1986 (including Buffalo Range Ranch) confirmed that it
was economically rational to switch land from livestock (earning 7c/kg livemass) to
wildlife (26c) (Table 3).
Repeating a survey of rancher opinions (unpublished mimeo) about rancher opinions
about wildlife in the Zimbabwe Midlands ten years after the radical Parks and Wild Life
Act of 1975 (that devolved full authority to landholders to use wildlife), and only four
years after the civil war ended, showed significant changes. Wildlife income had quad-
rupled, and neutral or negative attitudes towards wildlife decreased from 22% to 0%. In
line with the predictions of the sustainable use approach, the geographic range of valu-
able hunting species increased, as we also see in the data from South Africa (see below).
The number of properties utilizing reedbuck, bushbuck, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck,
tsessebe, kudu, eland, and sable increased by 21%; the geographic range of these species
expanded by 22%, and that of the most valuable species (i.e., waterbuck, tsessebe, eland,
and sable), by 35%. In terms of biodiversity conservation, a single, sedentary, gregarious
bulk-roughage feeder (i.e., domestic cattle) was replaced by a spectrum of 15 or more
species of wild (and domestic) animals (Child 2009), and habitats noticeably improved
(personal observation, photographs) on large unfenced ranches in Zimbabwe, although
there were strong concerns about degradation on small fenced game farms in South
By the late 1980s, most cattle ranchers in Zimbabwe began to promote and use wild-
life because of a decline in cattle prices and subsidies and increasing ecological pro-
blems highlighted by the 1984 and 1992 drought. A significant number shifted
completely into wildlife, especially in southern Zimbabwe and near Hwange National
Park and Victoria Falls. An excellent documentary video about the formation of the
Save Valley Conservancy illustrates these broader trends (Taylor 2002). In the video,
Table 2 A financial comparison (in Zimbabwean $ dollars) of wildlife and livestock in the
Zimbabwean Midlands in 1984
Wildlife and livestock economics in the Zimbabwe Midlands
Units Cattle Wildlife
Comparison/unit area (wildlife = 20% of biomass)
Income Ha $13.57 $3.36
Profit (income variable costs) Ha $4.52 $2.93
Comparison/kg biomass
Gross income Kg 20c 20c
Profit Kg 7c 17c
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 13 of 32
one of the leading ranchers in the Lowveld (Clive Stockil) describes how cattle ranching
had been developed in the areas since the 1950s. Following the adage you can't farm in
a zoo, wildlife had been steadily replaced, including through active elimination cam-
paigns (e.g., of buffalo) by the veterinary department. Footage shows the degradation of
the habitat (much as described for Buffalo Range) and the collapse of cattle enterprises.
Noting that ranching needed to be ecologically sustainable, economically viable, and
socio-politically acceptable, Stockil describes how 27 ranchers studied the situation.
They commissioned a report (PriceWaterhouse 1994) that concluded that wildlife
would double their income and increase the return on capital from 1% to 3% (beef ) to
10% to 22% (wildlife). Consequently, the 27 landholders in the Save Valley shifted from
livestock to wildlife, combining 344,200 ha of previously degraded cattle ranches into a
huge wildlife conservancy with no internal fencing and common management policies
(Lindsay et al. 2009). The Save Conservancy was systematically restocked with elephant,
buffalo, predators including lions and wild dogs, and many of the antelope species dis-
placed by livestock. Hunting and tourism lodges diversified the economy, generated
more profits, provided more jobs, and allowed the environment to recover. To all
intents and purposes, this resembled a private national park. At least seven other simi-
lar initiatives occurred in Zimbabwe at the time.
Kickback from single commodity Leviathans
By the late 1980s, the relative economics of wildlife and livestock had reversed, but
agricultural polices had not. Despite falling beef prices on the world market, govern-
ment veterinary and agricultural agencies continued to support beef while imposing
considerable costs on the wildlife sector to the detriment of private ranches and the
greater economy (Muir-Leresche and Nelson 2000) although wildlife was enabling cat-
tle ranchers to stay on the land (a pattern also observed in Texas, personal observation)
and to recover its ecological function (Child 1988; Jansen et al. 1992; PriceWaterhouse
1994). But powerful government agricultural agencies continued to promote beef with-
out considering its impact on wildlife, illustrating the dangers of single-sector decision-
making. Between 1919 and the 1980s, thousands of wild animals including rhinos were
shot in the name of tsetse fly control (Child and Riney 1987), hundreds of miles of
game fence were erected, habitats were grossly modified including the bulldozing of ri-
parian woodlands and waterholes, and DDT and deildrin were applied on a broad scale.
In the 1980s, large areas of the country were further fenced to control foot-and-mouth
disease despite questions as to the technical and economic merits of a fencing solution
(Taylor and Martin 1987). Based on controversial evidence of buffalo-to-livestock trans-
mission, all buffalo on private land were shot despite the veterinary department being
informed that buffalo could double the profitability of wildlife enterprises. To combat
this, the small wildlife department began to study the economics of the cattle sector
Table 3 A financial comparison (in Z$ dollars) of wildlife and livestock in the Zimbabwe
Lowveld in 1986
Cattle and wildlife profitability in the Lowveld in 1986
Livemass (kg)Turnover (Z$) Profit (Z$) Profit/kg
Cattle 10.1 m $2.0 m $0.7 m 0.07
Wildlife 4.7 m $1.4 m $1.2 m 0.26
m = million.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 14 of 32
and developed a quick and dirty budgetfor the beef sector (Table 4). Financial data
compiled from government reports (Child 1988) showed that even preferential access
to the high-priced European Union market would not cover farmer and industry costs,
even before the fixed costs to farmers (e.g., capital value of livestock, land, and facil-
ities), the industry (e.g., costs of new EU compliant abattoirs), or the environment were
accounted for. Single-sector Leviathans emphasized commodity production (e.g., bags
of maize and kilograms of beef ) with little appreciation of economic issues like com-
parative advantage or allocative efficiency, which may speak well to politicians but does
not maximize societal well-being.
A historical review of the government's own reports, including Parliamentary Com-
missions of Inquiry, showed that the beef sector had been heavily subsidized for several
decades through advantageous beef prices, wealth transfer from the peasant to
Table 4 Quick and dirty beef industry budget (Zimbabwean $ dollar 1986)
1. Government services 62
2. Cold Storage Commission subsidy 50
3. Farmer's variable costs 74
4. Farmer capital investment (land, cattle) ??
5. Farmer overhead costs (fixed costs) ??
6. Industry investment in European Union-standard abattoirs, buffalo fencing, etc. ??
7. Environmental costs (overgrazing) ??
Total Costs 185+
1. Actual 149
2. With European Economic Commission exports 191
Worl d
Price of beef
Price of beef on Zimbabwean
market (subsidized)
Figure 4 Comparing domestic and world prices to estimate if land use is taxed or subsidized.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 15 of 32
commercial herd, support to farm development through fencing and water provision,
subsidisation of single-channel marketing systems (the Cold Storage Commission), and
so on (Phimister 1978; Child 1988). Methodologically, developing these arguments is
time consuming and subject to different interpretations. Parity pricing provides a
quicker and more reliable method for assessing if beef producers are subsidised (or
taxed) by comparing the price farmers get for beef on the domestic market compared
to the world market. Using government statistics (Figure 4) reveals that, after the mid-
1970s, the domestic price of beef was on average 40% higher than the world price, con-
firming other research findings that producers were heavily subsidised through pricing
policies (Williams 1993).
Financial and economic analysis
The proponents of wildlife intuited as far back as the 1960s that wildlife was being dis-
placed by livestock despite being a better land use option. An economist would say that
wildlife had an inherent comparative advantage in drylands but was undervalued by
market failures so that scarce resources were being misallocated to the detriment of so-
ciety. In 1990, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Zimbabwe's wildlife agency
used detailed financial accounts and asset registers to assess the viability of some 150
cattle and wildlife enterprises (Jansen et al. 1992). Wildlife was more profitable than
livestock, with only 5% of livestock operations generating a return on capital in excess
of 10% when profits were calculated using market (financial) prices (Figure 5). Market
prices were then adjusted to remove pricing distortions caused by market failures. In
terms of societal outcomes, wildlife was even more profitable (Figure 6), providing jobs,
economic growth, and foreign currency (which was undervalued by government-
controlled exchange rates). The rapid transition towards wildlife in many areas, unfor-
tunately, was never accurately quantified, but judging from trophy sales, wildlife popu-
lations on private land quadrupled between 1984 and 1992 (Booth 2002).
South Africa and Namibia
The land invasions in Zimbabwe in 2000 undermined much, but not all, of this pro-
gress. However, similar trends on private land in Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana
confirmed the coming of age of the wildlife bio-experience sector. In Namibia, between
the early 1970s and 2001, livestock populations on private land halved from 1.8 million
Profitable Marginal Loss
Figure 5 Comparison of the financial profitability of cattle and wildlife in Zimbabwe in 1990.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 16 of 32
to 0.91 million, whereas huntablewildlife populations doubled from 0.565 million to
1,161 million head for economic reasons (Barnes and Jones 2009). In South Africa, the
numbers of wild animals easily quadrupled between 1964 and 2005, with some sources
(Flack unpublished data; Carruthers 2008 suggesting as many as 18.6 million wild ani-
mals between 1964 and 2005, and there are now some 10,000 wildlife ranches and
some 4,000 mixed wildlife and livestock enterprises (Bothma et al. 2009). Private wild-
life areas expanded eightfold between 1979 and the mid-1990s (Chadwick 1996), pro-
tecting at least 16.8% of the total area of South Africa (Cousins et al. 2008) compared
to 6% as IUCN category I to IV protected areas. As with Zimbabwe, utilizedspecies
increased much more rapidly than those protected. Rhino increased from 50 to
18,000, and black wildebeest from a few to 26,000, much faster than bontebok (few to
less than 5,000) and Cape Mountain Zebra (few to 1,200) for which hunting has only
been allowed within the past decade (Flack, personal communication).
Policy analysis matrix
Despite its size and economic importance, there is remarkably little research or political
economic understanding of the wildlife sector in South Africa and some risk that con-
servation, economic, and employment gains will be undone in the politically charged
debate over land restitution. We highlight key findings of an investigation of the eco-
nomics of game ranching near Kruger National Park (Musengezi 2010) and illustrate
the usefulness of the Policy Analysis Matrix or PAM methodology (Table 5).
The PAM is theoretically robust (Monke and Pearson 1989), relatively easy to apply,
and useful for influencing policy makers, especially in finance ministries because it is
easy to understand as it follows the basic calculation, profit = income from sales less
Table 5 Policy Analysis Matrix (PAM)
Revenues Costs Profits
Tradable inputs Domestic factors
Private prices A B C D
Social(or economic) prices
Divergence I J K L
The PAM can also account for environmental externalities and for ecological, regulating and social/cultural services by
building estimates of the cost of these into social prices, but we did not do this.
Profitable Marginal Loss
Figure 6 Comparison of the financial and economic profitability of wildlife in Zimbabwe in 1990.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 17 of 32
costs of production. Constructing a PAM requires social skills because it relies on land-
holdersproviding their income and expenditure accounts. It also requires technical
skills to classify accounts into revenues, tradable and domestic factor costs, and to cal-
culate economicprices. It can be extended to incorporate negative externalities on
ecosystems or social/equity systems and to guard against ignoring these in policy
recommendations. The PAM is particularly useful for assessing if a land use represents
a good choice for society and how much choices are being distorted by policy and mar-
ket failures.
In this paper, for example, we use PAM to assess if wildlife is an optimal use of dry-
lands, that is, does wildlife have a comparative advantage? Comparative advantageis
not the same as absolute advantage but explains why countries gain mutually from
trading in products for which they have relative efficiencies. Comparative advantage is
calculated by comparing value-added (i.e., revenues-tradable inputs) to the costs of
local land, labour, and capital (i.e., domestic factors), which is why the PAM split costs
into two columns: tradable inputs and domestic factors.
Second, we can calculate how much market and policy failures are distorting prices,
and therefore land use decisions, away from the real values that would guide private
actors to allocate resources efficiently for society. We quantify these price distortions
by comparing private prices (top row) to prices in perfect markets (social prices row),
correcting prices using various econometric techniques. The divergence between the
private and social prices is a measure of the magnitude of market failure. It is also a
critical economic concept with considerable implications for conservation policy. When
private prices diverge from their true values, private decision makers do not properly
internalize social benefits and costs of their actions. This causes under-provision or
over-utilization of natural resources and is the root of many natural resource problems
(Libecap 2009).
In 2010, Jessica Musengezi applied the PAM methodology to eight properties near
Kruger National Park in South Africa (Table 6). Wildlife enterprises were too diverse
(and innovative) to summarize using simple averages. Property (a), for example, sup-
ported high-end tourism charging over US$500 per night, while property (d) was pur-
chased for ecological reasons and profits were an insignificant objective. Only property
(g) still had livestock, but profitability was achieved from vertical integration including
an abattoir and butcheries (providing profits far in excess of cattle ranching in the
Simple gross income and net margin (i.e., gross income direct costs) data showed
that all wildlife properties (except (d)) are profitable (Table 6), exceed the returns from
extensive commercial beef production (according to models provided by the Depart-
ment of Agriculture), and provided significant numbers of jobs (Musengezi 2010). In-
deed, wildlife enterprises create more jobs than the livestock enterprises they displaced
by a factor of two and as much as five, and these jobs are also more specialized, in-
creasing wage bills some 20- to 32-fold, (PriceWaterhouse 1994; Taylor 2002; Langholz
and Kerley 2006).
We illustrate how the PAM is used to assess the relative economics of wildlife pro-
duction using Farm (a). The capital letters in the formulas are defined in the PAM in
Table 5. At a basic level, Farm (a) generates (South African rand) R8,706 /ha and is
profitableafter costs with a gross margin of R8,282 (US$1=R7). It also adds value to
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 18 of 32
the South African economy from both a private and social perspective. In terms of the
prices that guide the farmer to make land use decisions, the private value-added
exceeds costs of domestic factor inputs. Said technically, the private cost ratio shows
that, for each rand of net profit (A-B), 38cents goes to pay domestic factors (C). This
leaves a net profit of 62 cents which is substantial (i.e., PCO = C/(A-B) = 0.38). When
prices are adjusted to correct pricing distortions, wildlife generates one rand of profit
from 20 cents of domestic factors costs (i.e., Domestic Resource Cost Ratio (DRC) =
G/(E-F) = 0.196). Economically speaking, wildlife has a comparative advantage and is a
good use of drylands in South Africa.
We can now use the PAM to advise policy makers as to how market failures are ef-
fectively taxing or subsidising wildlife. First, we assess the impacts of exchange rate and
trade policies using the Effective Protection Coefficient (EPC). On Farm (a), the social
value-added (E-F) exceeds the private value-added (A-B) by only 6% (i.e., EPC = (A-B)/
(E-F) = 0.94), which confirms that product markets in South Africa are relatively free
and only slightly disadvantaging wildlife. Second, we use the profitability coefficient to
Table 6 Summary of PAM results for eight wildlife properties in South Africa in 2010
All price in South Africa Rand a b c d e f g h
(US $1=R7)
Property attributes
Farm size (ha) 5,207 1,700 3,700 2,017 2,800 3,200 14,400 30,000
Big five Yes No Yes No No No No Yes
Beds 68 42 52 12 12 10 - -
Average price (rand) 2,854 350 260 285 350 250 - -
Revenue sources(% of total revenue)
Tourism accommodation 95 2 79 95 0 5 0 0
Biltong hunting 0 0 0 0 0 17 1 0
Cattle 0 0 0 0 0 0 84 0
Game meat 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Live game sales 0 92 2 0 100 71 14 100
Retail 6 0 3 2 0 0 0 0
Trophy hunting 0 6 16 0 0 6 2 0
Number of workers 194 84 20 19 9 10 75 10
Labour cost (rand/ha) 2,788 600 664 471 238 87 233 14
Labour cost (% of total expenditure) 77 21 43 63 51 18 19 18
Financial and economic results
Gross income (rand/ha) 8,706 4,936 2,231 105 1,643 1,099 2,906 150
Gross margin (rand/ha) 8,282 2,886 856 4 1,434 768 1,947 90
Private cost ratio 0.38 0.44 0.13 1.51 0.34 0.69 0.16 0.16
Domestic resource cost 0.2 0.22 0.59 1 0.26 0.43 0.11 0.08
Effective protection coefficient 0.94 0.88 0.92 0.94 0.96 1.03 0.91 0.9
Profitability coefficient 0.73 0.64 0.14 1.18 0.86 0.55 0.86 0.83
Net policy transfer (% tax on net profits) 27 36 86 18 14 45 14 17
PAM, Policy Analysis Matrix; N/a.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 19 of 32
measure the overall effect of all policy distortions on the enterprise. On Farm (a), this
is D/H = 0.73, so overall, Farm (a)'s private profit is 27% lower than it would be in the
absence of economic distortion. This suggests that, in South Africa, domestic factors
(i.e., immovable land, labour, and capital) are moderately distorted and that, if we cor-
rected these issues, wildlife would be 27% more profitable.
There is considerable variability amongst the eight properties, depending upon the
specific configuration of their enterprise and cost structures. Nonetheless, wildlife
clearly provides significant jobs from marginal land. It is an economically efficient use
of drylands in South Africa (DRC < 1). It is also profitable to farmers despite govern-
ment policies being disadvantageous to wildlife. However, Musengezi's research also
showed that game ranchers faced significantly more nonfinancial barriers compared to
conventional agricultural enterprises in the form of additional regulations and permis-
sions. Her analysis is a single snapshot in time and does not incorporate habitat recov-
ery or the considerable increases in land values associated with wildlife properties.
Conceptualizing wildlife as an economic option
We can use two conceptual diagrams to summarize the economics of wildlife. Figure 7
hypothesizes that wildlife outcompetes livestock agriculture in some drylands because it is
easily diversified through hunting and tourism. These advantages are magnified at the eco-
nomic or societal level because the wildlife sector is associated with vertical integration
(lodging, guiding, etc.) and tourism multipliers (e.g., backwards linkages to inputs like food,
wine, transport, etc.) that are far higher than for simple commodities (like meat).
This has important policy implications. In terms of development, wildlife utilization is a
sensible land use option judged purely in terms of jobs and economic growth in some dry-
lands (Figure 8). Therefore, policies that internalize both the costs and benefits of wildlife
are likely to result in positive conservation and development outcomes. Conservationists
also need to take this seriously, recognizing that national parks in many savannas can
For Landholder (Financial) For Society (Economic)
Meat Meat
Economic output
in Sector
to Land
in Sector
to Land
Meat Viability
Economic output
Figure 7 Conceptualizing economic differences between the bio-experience and commodity
economy in drylands.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 20 of 32
achieve their conservation objectives while also functioning as engines for economic growth
and rural development, which is also an important social responsibility.
In higher-rainfall agricultural areas, the argument is reversed (Figure 8). If we want to
conserve representative samples of these environments, we will need to subsidize them
(e.g., protected areas) because wildlife is only economically competitive on patches of land
that are difficult to farm (e.g. wetlands and hills) or uniquely accessible to markets in cities.
Figure 8 also illustrates a critical difference between agriculture and natural resource-
based systems. In traditional agricultural zones, ecosystems are greatly simplified, and
environmental energy is channeled directly into one, or at most a few, products like
cotton or corn. Outside these zones, people tend to harvest plants indirectly using ani-
mals (e.g., drylands) or to harvest a much wider variety of plant and animal products
(e.g., tropical forests). In drylands, humans harvest the third trophic tier. There is a
quantum loss in productivity because energy is lost in transfers between trophic layers,
and commodity production is ecologically limited (illustrated in Figure 8). It is in these
three-tier environments that the bio-experience economy has a comparative economic
advantage over agro-extractive commodity production. However, historically, the wild-
life in these ecosystems was undervalued and replaced by livestock. Policy and market
failures, especially the nationalization of wildlife, restrictions to commercial use, and
subsidization of commodity sectors, sent out the wrong pricing signal to landholders.
This trend was only reversed when radical changes in wildlife policy began to address
market failures by (a) devolving use rights for wildlife to landholders and (b) encour-
aging commercial use. Where market failures remain pervasive, for example where
wildlife remains nationalized (e.g., Kenya), and in communal lands where access to
resources remains open, wildlife continues to be replaced (see below).
Figure 8 Conceptualizing production systems (bottom)and comparative advantage (top).
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 21 of 32
Institutions and value
Walker et al. (2004) use the example of private conservation in southern Africa to illus-
trate how complex systems flip from one zone of attraction to another. Under early co-
lonial policies, ranches in southern African was locked in a mutually reinforcing cycle
of environmental degradation and financial crisis associated with beef commodity pro-
duction, but when these policies were changed, landholders quickly adapted, giving rise
to a dynamic and profitable wildlife sector. That the natural environment is the same but
that radical change followed a change in the rules, alerts us to the importance of these
rules and introduces the field of institutional economics (North 1990). Institutions are the
rules and norms that guide human behaviour, including the allocation of resources. Insti-
tutions like property rights and markets allow wealth to be created through processes of
specialization, diversification, and exchange, so institutionally rich countries are usually
wealthier than institutionally poor ones (North 1995). We hypothesize that this same logic
applies to drylands: institutionally rich drylands produce much greater value than those
that are institutionally thin because richer institutions enable landholders to convert eco-
logical raw materials into higher-order goods and services without damaging the resource
base. Thus, new institutions like wildlife property rights, tourism markets, banks, wildlife
auctions, etc. have added considerable value to wildlife through processes of
specialization, diversification, economies of scale, investment, and exchange. New wildlife
institutions add value, allowing land to generate upward from South African Rand
R1,000/ha, and some R100/ha, to R2,788/ha in wages alone (Table 6). Moreover, the devo-
lution of wildlife rights to 10,000 private landholders has fueled considerable innovation
in the development of wildlife products, which has driven up the value of wildlife in ways
that have not happened when natural resources are monopolized by the state. Thus,
southern Africa provides a multitude of hunting and tourism experiences from walking
with lions to having moonlit dinners in the bush, whereas in Kenya and Tanzania, most
tourists are restricted to closed vehicles in state-managed wildlife areas. We can use the
price of South Africa's relatively unspectacular wildlife as a benchmark of its potential
value. This suggests that the value of wildlife is far lower than it should be in centralized
and institutionally thin wildlife sectors, including many communal lands.
Our discussion of the relationship between the institutional richness and economic
productivity of drylands reflects Douglass North's explanation for why some countries
are rich and others poor. North postulates that the most dramatic shift in human his-
tory has been from a personalized economy of big men and small-scale economic and
political activity to an impersonal economy that relies on rules that allow us to transact
reliably all over the world and with people we don't know, allowing humans to
specialize and diversify on much higher scales than ever before (North 2003).
In Zimbabwe, enriching wildlife institutions by devolving proprietorship to land-
holders, encouraging trade, and establishing institutions like producer associations and
auctions (Child 1995) created value by converting raw materials into higher-value
goods and services by replacing low-value meat production (i.e., beef or bushmeat) with
high-value ecotourism. However, these gains rely on institutions, and when the rule of
law breaks down (degrading institutions such as property rights, courts, arbitration,
and economic exchange), people can no longer rely on impersonal institutions (North
2003). Personalized Big-Man economies re-exert themselves (Beinhocker 2006), and in-
stitutional breakdown often benefit elites (Chabal and Daloz 1999). The renewable
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 22 of 32
resource economy, especially sectors like wildlife that rely on economies of scale and
exchange, is quickly disrupted, and land use reverts to resources that people can own
and protect individually like livestock or crops.
Similarly, communal lands are institutionally thin, lacking title deeds and genuine
proprietary rights to wildlife and other natural resources like carbon. This locks in a re-
liance on privately owned livestock and individual (but untitled) fields even when these
are low-value land use options. We can develop a rough estimate of the opportunity
costs of weak institutions by comparing the output of communal and private drylands
(400 to 600 mm annual rainfall) outside Kruger National Park, using data from Gregory
Parent and Jessica Musengezi. In 2010, Parent conducted comprehensive surveys of
production and consumption data from households in the Mutale area bordering
northern Kruger National Park, in a study looking at the impacts of market access on
household vulnerability and resource use decisions (unpublished data). His data show
that conventional livestock and farming adds little or no value in terms of cash income
or jobs (Table 7). The net output of South African Rand R232/ha from the local area is
less than half of the requirements needed to maintain household consumption at R532/
ha (Table 8). People are highly dependent on transfer payments from family members
with jobs in urban areas and mines, and from government grants. Nonetheless, crop-
ping, natural resource collection, and livestock are important risk mitigation and cop-
ing strategies, especially for poorer households. Households tend to view cattle more as
an insurance policy than as a production commodity because they have limited access
to formal insurance institutions.
The key point is that, in the same agro-economic region, there is a 10 to 40 times dif-
ference in economic output between institutionally rich private land and institutionally
thin communal land (noting also that communal lands suffer enormously from the leg-
acies of apartheid). Communal lands also suffer disproportionately from overgrazing in
a tragedy-of-the-commons-type situation where environmental costs are externalized
to society (Hardin 1971). Our suggestion is that the opportunity costs of weak institu-
tions are enormous, and the return on investment from developing new institutions
may be high.
Policy failurein East Africa
The economic value of institutions is highlighted by the case of wildlife in East Africa.
East Africa's wildlife is inherently superior to southern Africa, and the hunting sector
only moved southwards when it was restricted in East Africa in the early 1970s. In con-
trast to southern Africa, postcolonial East Africa perpetuated colonial policies of state
nationalisation, monopolisation, and centralization of wildlife (Kabiri 2010). Several pri-
vate landholders such as David Hopcraft in Kenya have struggled to develop wildlife as
Table 7 Annual output from land use activities in Benda Mutali communal area
Activity Total output Output per hectare
Output per household
Crops 97,185 4.19 171
Livestock 1,737,474 74.89 3,048
Natural resources 2,537,184 109.36 4,451
Labor 1,017,279 43.85 1,785
Total 5,389,122 232.29 9,455
All values in South African Rand (US dollar $1 =R7
Area based on mapping exercise with community to calculate spatial extent of production, estimated to be 23,200 ha.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 23 of 32
a land use option for many years but suffer from weak proprietary rights, bureaucratic
uncertainty, and restrictions on use. Thus, Hopcraft relies on tourism and the sale of
meat to Nairobi for his income rather than on the potentially more lucrative safari
hunting, which is banned in Kenya (personal communication). Some large landholders
manage wildlife for tourism, but it would be a more competitive land use option in, for
instance, the Laikipia district if hunting was legalized (Craig, personal communication).
In Tanzania, hunting is legal, but the proceeds from hunting are seldom returned to
landholder communities, while the state is also extracting most tourism revenues from
community areas (Nelson 2010). Wildlife in prime areas in Kenya (e.g., Mara) has
declined to a third or less of its former (1977) abundance (Ogutu et al. 2011), and there
may well be similar downward trends in Tanzania, but data is sparse and often
Externalities, collective action, and scale
Wildlife is a mobile resource that, like many natural resources, is associated with exter-
nalities, for example, where one landholder conserves a species only for his neighbour
to hunt them or where wildlife damages crops on a neighbouring property. These ex-
ternalities are the reason why individual ownership of wildlife is thought to be prob-
lematic and has been centralized in the state. However, externalities may be easier to
solve in practice than theoretical approaches might suggest. This requires cross-scale
institutions. Following the principle of subsidiarity, these need to be built up from the
bottom. The primary goal is to internalize the costs and benefits of wildlife manage-
ment at the level of landholders because they are deterministic of land use outcomes.
The first essential step is to devolve proprietorship to landholders. Second, mechanisms
are needed to manage externalities associated with the fugitive character of wildlife and
other natural resources.
South Africa and Namibia manage wildlife's externalities with physical infrastructure.
The right to utilize wildlife is linked to a certificate of adequate enclosureand requires
that wildlife properties are appropriately fenced. Game fencing solves problems asso-
ciated with wildlife's mobility but introduces new problems because game fences are
expensive and fragment landscapes. The sedentarisation of wildlife on small, fenced pri-
vate ranches negates many natural behavioural advantages, allows overstocking, and
results in the negative impacts on environments associated with decreased mobility in
Table 8 Annual household consumption in Benda Mutali
Activity Total household
Consumption per hectare
Consumption per
Crops 97,185 4.19 171
Livestock 768,152 33.11 1,348
Natural resources 1,364,392 58.81 2,394
Food purchases 5,242,040 225.95 9,197
4,207,784 181.37 7,382
Asset depreciation 718,040 30.95 1,260
Total 12,397,593 534.38 21,750
All data in South African rand. (US dollar $1=R7).
Area based on mapping exercises with community to calculate spatial extent of production.
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 24 of 32
ruminants. Mismanagement of any animals, domestic or wild, causes ecological pro-
blems, and fencing savannas is a form of mismanagement. In the early days of game
farming in South Africa, overstocking was a considerable concern, though the situation
is improving with management experience and mechanisms for scaling up, such as
The alternative to managing externalities with physical infrastructure is to manage
them with institutions, as was done in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's far-sighted Natural
Resources Act of 1941 enabled farmers to voluntarily establish themselves (usually 30
to 50 landholders in a catchment) as democratically-managed Intensive Conservation
Areas (ICA) with more power to regulate themselves than anything a centralized state
would dare to impose. ICAs had the power to require members to address soil erosion
at their own financial cost, reduce livestock where overstocking was degrading the grass
layer, desist from tree cutting, or set quotas and other restrictions on the use of wildlife
species. Communities designed locally appropriate rules, which were enforced through
peer pressure backed by the possibility of legal action. In essence, the community be-
came the primary locus of regulation and enforcement. The state retained responsibility
for regularly inspecting land to ensure that ICAs were performing and could intervene
if this community-based system failed, but this was rarely required. The Act also estab-
lished a court to which landholders could appeal.
ICAs became the focal point for social learning, collective action, and peer control of
wildlife management, as farmers met to regulate and learn from each other. Self-
regulation was parsimonious but effective. Landholders were financially and socially ac-
countable for regulations they custom designed for their particular circumstances. They
limited regulation to high-value species and circumstances with real benefits from regu-
lation, and where regulations were socially acceptable and could be enforced. For ex-
ample, in the Munyati-Sebakwe ICA, farmers set quotas for high-value species like
sable and waterbuck that were still building up after the livestock era but did not waste
their time regulating ubiquitous or territorial animals like impala and kudu. In the se-
vere 1984 drought, the Chiredzi ICA acted collectively to save the few remaining sable
in the area by capturing and feeding them (sable having been severely threatened by
livestock overgrazing). As the species recovered, they judiciously increased hunting
quotas, rewarding ranchers who successfully recovered their sable populations with
higher quotas. In another example, one landholder was luring wildlife onto his land
using fire and fodder to capture and sell them, but the ICA resolved this problem by
imposing quotas on him. These issues were usually solved informally through peer
pressure backed up by the ICA's power to impose collective solutions if they needed to.
The system was inexpensive and highly effective. Decisions and enforcement were in-
ternally legitimated, managed primarily through peer pressure, and tightly designed to
suit local circumstances.
The ICA system not only used social interaction to manage the externalities asso-
ciated with natural resources but also provided a grassroots democratic system by
which government officials were held accountable for natural resource policies. ICAs
had direct statutory access to key ministers, parliament, and even the prime minister,
and it is no coincidence that the movement was strongly supported by research, exten-
sion, and even environmental education both in schools and for adults (Child and
Child, in preparation). Theoretically speaking, Zimbabwe's natural resource legislation
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 25 of 32
combined privatization of wildlife to internalize costs and benefits at the level of the in-
dividual property, with collective action to control the spatial and temporal externalities
associated with wildlife and natural resources.
Private conservancies
In the 1990s, many ranchers began to recognize ecologies and economies of scale. They
formed conservancies, whereby up to 30 ranchers agree, often contractually, to manage
their wildlife collectively. This allowed a second economic transition. Whereas individual
game ranchers could reintroduce rarer species like sable, hartebeest, and rhino, large wildlife
collectives could restock big game like elephant, buffalo, lions, and even wild dogs. For ex-
ample, the Save Conservancy in southeastern Zimbabwe captured over 600 elephants in the
drought-stricken Gona-re-zhou National Park and restocked lions, wild dogs, buffalos, and
plains game. In South Africa, landholder collectives removed the fence between themselves
and Kruger National Park and generate substantial revenues from hunting and tourism.
The economies of scale associated with tourism and wildlife allowed these huge private
reserves to share management costs and principles over a larger area and to generate more
money than individual properties.
Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM)
From the early 1970s, conservation bureaucrats in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana (and
and that, if similar rights were devolved to communal areas, both rural people and wildlife
would benefit (Metcalfe 1993). This led to the emergence of community-based natural re-
source management (CBNRM) in southern Africa where, led by Zimbabwe's iconic CAMP-
FIRE programme (Child 1993; Murphree 2005; Frost and Bond 2008; Taylor 2009), hunting
and tourism revenues were returned to communities. From a conservation perspective, this
stabilised or even increased wildlife populations in Zimbabwe's crowded communal lands
(Child et al. 2003), and the recovery of wildlife, including endangered rhinos and elephants,
was even stronger in Namibia (NACSO 2008). Income from wildlife contributed to social
projects, provided cash to households in some projects (Dalal-Clayton and Child 2003;
Jones and Weaver 2009), and helped to empower local people (Jones and Murphree 2004).
In some communities, employment and income from hunting and tourism contributed sig-
nificantly to livelihoods, providing as much as three-quarters of on-farm livelihoods to the
Sankuyo community in Botswana (unpublished data).
Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is the subject of a consider-
able literature, and we emphasize only key issues here. First, wildlife-based CBNRM is
founded on the potential to use wildlife as an economic engine in communal lands and, in
so doing, to incentivise conservation. Second, CBNRM mostly does not involve a trade-off
between conservation and development because it is an institutional approach that allocates
natural resources including wildlife to higher valued uses, and in some cases, more equit-
ably. Thus, CBNRM can and should simultaneously contribute to both conservation and
development, as happened for private land. Third, CBNRM relies on two sets of institutions:
those that devolve rights (or not) from state and community and about which much is writ-
ten (Murphree 2004; Nelson 2010), and those within a community that promote participa-
tion and equitable benefit sharing, which is an emerging challenge that has hardly been
As with private conservation, an essential ingredient of CBNRM is the devolution of the
rights and benefits for wildlife to communities. Where all (e.g., Botswana and Namibia) or
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 26 of 32
most (e.g., Zimbabwe) income has been devolved to communities, CBNRM has encouraged
the recovery of wildlife and generated significant incomes (NACSO 2008; Taylor 2009), but
has not magically (and unrealistically) resolved poverty, because of the number of people
involved and because wildlife populations are still low and recovering in hot, dry, and re-
mote environments. CBNRM is also difficult to implement when human densities are high,
wildlife populations are depleted, and benefits are low. However, the so-called crisisin
CBNRM reflects a failure of implementation and, specifically, a failure to devolve rights and
responsibilities to communities within a carefully designed institutional framework. Many, if
communities and therefore cannot be expected to work (Nelson 2010; Ribot 2003). These
are CBNRM programmes in name only, and wildlife is neither benefiting communities nor
recovering therefore.
The emerging challenge for CBNRM, and about which little is written, is the challenge of
within-community governance. Commonly CBNRM programmes generate revenue and re-
cover wildlife populations, but like many decentralization projects, they are plagued by elite
capture, misuse of money, and low levels of participation. In our experience, this is because
they rely on representational forms of governance whereby leaders elected by a community
sit on committees that make many or most of the decisions on behalf of the community.
The assumption is flawed that bi- or tri-annual elections and annual general meetings will
achieve accountability, participation, transparency, and equitable benefit sharing (and guard
against financial misappropriation and elite capture).
Challenging as it may seem, participatory democracy may be an essential starting point
and building-block for a successful CBNRM (and much easier to implement than first
assumed). Real participation requires that CBNRM communities are defined at a scale and
implement participatory processes that allow the majority of the people to (1) meet face-to-
face to share information and make decisions, (2) instruct the committee to implement
these decisions, and (3) review the quality of implementation (i.e., does expenditure reflect
the budget agreed upon by the community?) no less than quarterly.
Scaling up and scaling down at the same time
The experience of private game ranching demonstrates that wildlife can greatly increase the
economic output from drylands. We can have confidence in wildlife utilization as an eco-
nomic model. However, we need to develop new governance models to substantially in-
crease levels of participation and benefit sharing, and that prevent money from being
diverted to administrative expenses and elite capture. We suggest that this requires CBNRM
programs to be scaled down to the level of single-village communities and processes of par-
ticipatory democracy be strictly followed. In other words, CBNRM requires carefully crafted
institutions to manage the challenge of scale. These institutions need to scale up for reasons
of ecological and economic scale, but also to simultaneously scale down to improve ac-
countability, participation, and equitable benefit sharing (Child, unpublished data).
One of the more controversial and misunderstood aspects of wildlife utilization is hunt-
ing. Trophy hunting is an ecologically robust and high-value use of wildlife. It is true
that non-hunting tourism can outcompete hunting tourism economically but only in
prime areas with excellent wildlife. Hunting remains the bread and butter of wildlife
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 27 of 32
operations, especially in non-prime areas and in times of global or national crisis when
tourists stop traveling but hunters do not. Hunting provides a significant cash flow
from very few animals, facilitating the transition towards wildlife-based land uses. In-
deed, it is difficult to make the transition from livestock to wildlife in the absence of hunt-
ing, except for people with large amounts of money to invest. We see this even in the
development of Pilanesberg Game Reserve in South Africa (Johnson et al. 2009). The gov-
ernment purchased degraded livestock ranches to form a new park on the basis that this
was a better economic use of the land. The transition was partly financed by carefully con-
trolled trophy hunting of excess males. Hunting was carefully zoned in time and place to
avoid conflicts with the rapidly growing photo-safari business while careful hunting prac-
tices were used, so wildlife did not associate gunshots with vehicles or people.
Hunting is an essential component of the transition to wildlife-based land uses. However,
as wildlife populations and diversity recover, landholders are able to introduce photographic
tourism, building attractive lodges, and training significant numbers of local guides, cooks,
caterers, and managers. However, even in these circumstances, photo-tourism and hunting
are compatible. Conflicts are certainly common between tour operators and hunting outfit-
ters when they are competing for land and wildlife (e.g., around the Okavango Delta in
Botswana and the Luangwa Valley in Zambia), but such problems seldom arise when the
same manager is responsible for both operations, as in the Pilanesberg example.
It has taken 60 years for wildlife to emerge as an important and economically viable land
use option. It is now a proven economic model, and given the right ecological and institu-
tion circumstance, wildlife can provide significantly more jobs and economic growth than
conventional uses of the same land. We still face the challenge of how to apply this model
more broadly in Africa's communal lands, a challenge that requires genuine devolution of
proprietorship from government to community and democratic and effective organizational
development within communities.
The wildlife option has emerged through proactive policy making and private sector
entrepreneurship. Far-sighted conservation bureaucrats challenged the postcolonial sta-
tus quo and developed a new approach to wildlife conservation based on landholder
benefit. They sought to maximize the value from wildlife to people living with it by (1)
devolving full proprietorship to landholders, (2) encouraging sustainable commercial
uses provided they were humane, and (3) reducing the regulatory burden on the sector.
This allowed thousands of wildlife owners to experiment with new products, steadily
driving up the value of wildlife in ways that we seldom see with other wild resources
like forests. Where institutions were changed in this way, mainly on private land but
also in some communal lands, wildlife and the habitats on which it depends have
recovered enormously. But where wildlife remained centralized and noncommercial,
wildlife populations have declined.
Many drylands are locked in a reinforcing cycle of ecological over-utilization, but
economic under-utilization often linked to a reliance on commodity-based production
systems. Bold policy facilitated a transformation to an economy based not on commod-
ities but on experiences - the wildlife and bio-experience sector. This generates more
economic activity yet extracts far less from the environment and, though it seems
Child et al. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:18 Page 28 of 32
counterintuitive in a world afflicted with poverty, the terms of trade for tourism and
experiences are improving steadily whereas the price of agricultural commodities has
been stagnant or falling for several decades.
In the past few years, recognition of the importance of ecosystem services has increased.
In the most thorough analysis to date, Robert Constanza and his colleagues demonstrated
that the value of ecosystems exceeds global GDP by several factors (Costanza, d'Arge et al.
1997). But the problem is that these values are not reflected in the private prices that guide
the decision makers of landholders nor, therefore, in land use outcomes. In the 1960s, wild-
life faced these very same problems. They were addressed by adopting a new approach to
conservation based on well-crafted institutions at both the national and local level that
sought, first, to maximize the value of wildlife to the landholder by internalizing (privatizing)
its benefits and costs at the level of the landholder, and to simultaneously establish demo-
cratic collective action to manage externalities and scale. Contrary to the predictions of con-
servationists, commercializing wildlife in this way has had positive conservation and
development outcomes. Positive outcomes hinge on the simultaneous application of two
factors: driving up the price of wildlife (i.e., price) while ensuring that benefits and manage-
ment are controlled by landholders (i.e., proprietorship and subsidiarity). In the absence of
proprietorship, for example, the high price of ivory and rhino horn has been disastrous, but
taking away the value of wildlife is not a solution either because it is quickly replaced by al-
ternative land uses.
The development of the wildlife sector has been a policy experiment based on the hypoth-
esis that giving wildlife value to the people who live with it will result in positive develop-
ment and conservation outcomes, requiring considerable tenacity and adaptive learning in
navigating towards this objective in complex economic and political circumstances. The ap-
proach has succeeded where laws, regulations, and operational procedures have incorpo-
rated the principles of price, proprietorship, subsidiarity, and adaptive management in a
theoretically sound and disciplined manner. Indeed, wildlife provides a pioneering example
of Payments for Ecosystem Services, which was relatively easy to implement because of the
high value of wildlife and the relative simplicity of costs and benefits attribution (at least
compared to ecosystem processes). Ecosystem services are facing similar market failures of
wildlife. The challenge of our generation may well be to convert these values into incentives
for maintaining ecosystem services, perhaps by adapting some of the lessons from the wild-
life sector in southern Africa.
Competing interests
The authors declare they have no competing interests.
BC conceptualized and compiled the paper. JM provided data on game ranching and GP provided data on
community livelihoods in South Africa. GC strengthened the papers historical and policy perspectives. All authors
read and approved the final manuscript.
Author details
Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS), Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, Marais
Street, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa.
Department of Geography, Center for Africa Studies, University of Florida, 427
Grinter Hall, P.O. Box 115560, Florida, USA.
Received: 19 October 2011 Accepted: 5 March 2012
Published: 28 September 2012
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Cite this article as: Child et al.:The economics and institutional economics of wildlife on private land in Africa.
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... Over the past century, private and communal wildlife ranches and conservancies have emerged as a competitive land use in several southern and eastern African countries (Child et al. 2012;Snyman et al. 2021). Revenues (and therefore livelihoods) in these areas are generated through wildlifebased tourism and/or consumptive wildlife uses, including hunting for meat or trophies, wildlife sales, and meat sales (Snyman et al. 2021). ...
... Revenues (and therefore livelihoods) in these areas are generated through wildlifebased tourism and/or consumptive wildlife uses, including hunting for meat or trophies, wildlife sales, and meat sales (Snyman et al. 2021). Such land uses are dependent on policies that enable landholders to generate wildlife-based revenues that are competitive in relation to alternative landuse options such as agriculture (Child et al. 2012). The nature of these policies varies between countries. ...
... In addition to giving rise to private wildlife ranches, wildlifeuse policies enabled the emergence of community-based natural resource management, most notably in Namibia and Zimbabwe, with wildlife hunting and tourism revenues flowing (at least partially) to communities (Child et al. 2012;Bollig 2016). Community-based conservation is less well developed in South Africa, where land ownership became concentrated in the hands of a white minority during the Apartheid regime (Hall 2004). ...
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A new path for rhinoceros (rhino) conservation is needed. Recent data signal the alarming impact of poaching on populations in Africa's rhino stronghold, the state‐run Kruger National Park (South Africa), which today supports one quarter the rhinos than a decade ago. We aggregated African rhino population data, highlighting the growing role of private and community rhino custodians, who likely now conserve >50% of Africa's rhinos. Their contribution has been enabled by a supportive policy and economic environment, but this arrangement is becoming more difficult to sustain as costs associated with protecting rhinos skyrocket and revenue‐generating options become insufficient. Some privately held rhino populations are small or intensively managed, raising questions about their conservation value. As the role of private and community custodianship becomes increasingly central to the protection of Africa's remaining rhinos, its resilience must be strengthened through implementation of adaptive policies that incentivize rhino conservation. We outline policy pathways to provide an enabling environment for rhino conservation beyond state parks.
... A shift from livestock to wildlife ranching occurred across southern Africa in the 20th century due to the introduction of legislation (public infrastructure) that enabled landowners (resource users) to own, manage and benefit commercially from wildlife (ecological system/ natural infrastructure) on their properties (e.g., through hunting, ecotourism or live trade) (Child et al., 2012). This legislation significantly increased the abundance and distribution of wildlife across private and communal land in southern Africa (Child et al., 2012;Taylor et al., 2020). ...
... A shift from livestock to wildlife ranching occurred across southern Africa in the 20th century due to the introduction of legislation (public infrastructure) that enabled landowners (resource users) to own, manage and benefit commercially from wildlife (ecological system/ natural infrastructure) on their properties (e.g., through hunting, ecotourism or live trade) (Child et al., 2012). This legislation significantly increased the abundance and distribution of wildlife across private and communal land in southern Africa (Child et al., 2012;Taylor et al., 2020). The conservation value of wildlife ranching has been questioned, however, due to the general lack of monitoring of the ecological impacts of the industry and the temptation for some landowners to prioritize shorter-term profits over longer-term conservation. ...
... Conservancies are promoted as a means of aligning wildlife ranching more closely with conservation objectives, and entail neighboring landowners removing internal fencing to create larger, cooperatively managed wildlife areas (Lindsey et al., 2009;Leménager et al., 2014;Chidakel et al., 2020). In addition to increasing the area protected and thus the sustainability of the resource system, resource users can in theory benefit from economies of scale associated with tourism and wildlife, by sharing management and infrastructure costs over a larger area (Lindsey et al., 2009;Child et al., 2012;Chidakel et al., 2020). ...
As conservation biology has matured, its scope has expanded from a primarily ecological focus to recognition that nearly all conservation problems involve people. At the same time, conservation actions have been increasingly informed by ever more sophisticated quantitative models. These models have focused primarily on ecological and geographic elements of conservation problems, such as mark-recapture methods, predicting species occurrences, and optimizing the placement of protected areas. There are many off-the-shelf ecological models for conservation managers to draw upon, but very few that describe human-nature interactions in a generalizable manner. We address this gap by proposing a minimalistic modeling framework for human-nature interactions, combining well-established ideas in economics and social sciences (grounded in Ostrom's social-ecological systems framework) and accepted ecological models. Our approach begins with a systems breakdown consisting of an ecosystem, resource users, public infrastructure, and infrastructure providers; and interactions between these system elements, which bring together the biophysical context, the relevant attributes of the human society, and the rules (institutions, such as protected areas) currently in use. We briefly review the different disciplinary building blocks that the framework could incorporate and then illustrate our approach with two examples: a detailed analysis of the social-ecological dynamics involved in managing South African protected areas and a more theoretical analysis of a general system. We conclude with further discussion of the urgent need in conservation biology for models that are genuinely designed to capture the complexities of human socioeconomic behavior, rather than the more typical approach of trying to adapt an ecological model or a stochastic process to simulate human agency and decision-making. Our framework offers a relatively simple but highly versatile way of specifying social-ecological models that will help conservation biologists better represent critical linkages between social and ecological processes when modeling social-ecological dynamics.
... This has been successful in the case of the white rhinoceros, whose numbers have increased from just a handful in the 1960s to over 18,000 today (Cousins et al., 2023). Additionally, wildlife ranching has been found to provide employment opportunities, especially in rural areas where alternative employment is scarce (Child et al., 2012). ...
... In Southern Africa, a flourishing wildlife industry based on mixed-ranching of several species of antelopes in private properties has been expanding in the last decade. Since the year 2000, more than 14,000 game ranches are reported, covering an area >200,000 km 2 and harboring between 16 and 20 million wild mammals (Child et al. 2012;Lindsey et al. 2013). ...
The need to identify interactions with the potential for pathogen transmission among the community of hosts at the wildlife–livestock interface has led to the development of multiple approaches in the field of epidemiology. Methodologies can be broadly classified into those that allow the quantification of interactions and those whose objective is to detect the existence of potential interactions at the interface. Regardless of their capacity to quantify or detect this potential, it is possible to study both direct (i.e., the simultaneous presence of two individuals at a certain point) and indirect (i.e., the sequential presence of two individuals at a certain point) interactions. Although each methodology has its specific pros and cons, when individuals are not marked, the main limitations are the difficulty involved in assessing the spatio-temporal resolution of events and, obviously, the role played by the individuals involved, the nature of the interaction, and the associated level of epidemiological risk. Furthermore, marking a limited number of individuals with different devices (e.g. GPS, proximity loggers) normally implies the possibility of low representativeness of the target population, especially when high variability exists in behaviour and connectedness of individual animals. The present chapter reviews the methodologies most commonly used to collect the data employed to assess interactions at the wildlife–livestock interface, namely, the direct observation of animals, epidemiological sampling, epidemiological questionnaires, camera traps, GPS technology, and proximity loggers. We also present the complementary nature of different methodologies by means of a specific case study of animal tuberculosis in the Iberian Peninsula. The methods selected have to adapt to the objectives of the study, logistic constraints, target host species and pathogens, and the routes of transmission at the wildlife/livestock interface.
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This study examined strategies of redressing colonial land imbalances in Southern Africa, paying particular attention to lessons from Zimbabwe’s “Fast Track Land Reform Programme” (FTLRP). The objectives of this study were: to identify critical areas of concern in the Zimbabwe’s land reform as a strategy for redressing colonial imbalances; to evaluate whether land reform is a panacea for poverty reduction in Zimbabwe; to assess the level of empowerment on resettled farmers brought by the land reform programme in Zimbabwe and to analyse lessons learnt from the FTLRP. The study was anchored on the self-determination, dependency, poverty alleviation and empowerment theoretical approaches as explained and explored by scholars such as Legault (2017), Ferraro (1996) and Kabeer (1999). Literature from various leading scholars such as Moyo (2005), Mashizha and Mapuva (2018) and Moyana (2002) was analysed in relation to the land question and colonial land imbalances. The study also made relevant references to some major Legislative Acts, policies related to land such as the Lancaster House Constitution, Communal Land Settlement Act (1982), the Land Acquisition Act 1985 and 1992, National Land Policy (1990), Constitutional Amendments No. 30 of 1990, No. 17 Act, 2005 and, No. 20 Act, 2013, Agricultural Land Settlement Act (Chapter 20:01) of 2004, the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (2007) (Chapter 14:33), amongst others. In order to come up with a comprehensive examination of the subject matter, data was gathered from eight of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces and two districts from each of the identified provinces which were purposively chosen. Issues related to redressing colonial land imbalances through the FTLRP were thoroughly examined using predominantly qualitative research approach where key informant interviews, direct observation, documentary analysis and focus group discussions were used as the data generation techniques. Participants were selected using purposive and snowball sampling methods and these were drawn from beneficiaries of the FTLRP, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, relevant local regional embassy officials, the academia, traditional leaders, Government officials, District Administrator’s office, War veterans, Civic organizations, local dominant political parties and policy formulators. The collected data was then analysed through content and thematic analyses. The study findings showed that several policies and strategies were coined by the GOZ in an attempt to redress colonial imbalances, however such efforts could not achieve the desired positive impact in a significant way. As a result, land reform, as a tool for redressing colonial imbalances in Zimbabwe and also in Southern Africa in general, remains an incomplete, yet important issue. Through accessing land, the majority of the beneficiaries from Zimbabwe’s FTLRP managed to escape poverty at household level and became better positioned in society as they gained the ability to be self-sufficient and better their lives through working on the land and/ utilisation of various opportunities brought about by having access to the land capital. Therefore, a number of lessons were drawn from Zimbabwe’s FTLRP. The land reform initiative resulted in a number of negative implications such as sanctions, decline in productivity, inequalities in the access to land, multiple farm ownership and a lack of agriculture financing. Nevertheless, there were also several positives that came with the FTLRP such as poverty reduction and economic empowerment. The negatives can be addressed by implementation of recommendations from the land audit, having a robust continuous land reform monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place.
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Unlabelled: This paper reviews concepts and methods for the economic valuation of nature in the context of wildlife conservation and questions them in light of alternative approaches based on deliberation. Economic valuations have been used to set priorities, consider opportunity costs, assess co-benefits of conservation, support the case for conservation in public awareness and advocacy, and drive novel schemes to change incentives. We discuss the foundational principles of mainstream economic valuation in terms of its assumptions about values, markets, and human behaviour; propose a list of valuation studies in relation to wildlife protection; and explain the methods used. We then review critiques of these approaches focusing on the narrow way in which economics conceives of values, and institutional, power, and equity concerns. Finally, we complement conventional approaches commonly used for wildlife valuation with two forms of deliberative valuation: deliberated preferences and deliberative democratic monetary valuation. These are discussed in terms of their potential to address the drawbacks of mainstream economics and to realise the potential of valuation in bridging conservation of nature for its own sake and its important contributions to human well-being. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10344-023-01658-2.
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The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to assess the impacts of a global disturbance on conservation land uses and learn from responses to the crisis to enable more resilient conservation systems. To understand socio-economic responses of diverse wildlife working lands to COVID-19, we surveyed owners and managers of 78 private wildlife ranches (wildlife working lands), 23 agricultural farms (conventional working lands) and six public protected areas (conventional conservation lands) in South Africa. Most protected areas lost more than 75% of their revenues during 2020, while most agricultural farms lost less than 10%. The impact on wildlife ranches was more varied. Ranches with more diverse activities, particularly mixed wildlife–agriculture systems, lost less revenue, shifting their activities from those heavily impacted (international ecotourism, trophy hunting) to those less affected (for example, wildlife meat, livestock). This adaptive capacity suggests that wildlife-based enterprises could represent key ecosystem-based adaptations, providing lessons for integrated global policies that seek to incorporate private land models in the 2030 Biodiversity Framework. Conservation efforts were impacted in varied ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. This study assessed how South African wildlife ranches, agricultural farms and protected areas weathered the pandemic, finding greater adaptive capacity among more diversified and mixed business models.
The economic performance, through wildlife tourism, of African protected areas (PAs) varies widely. Though proximal management level factors responsible for economic performance and conservation outcomes are well known, underlying institutional, governance and organizational factors, which influence management regimes, have not been as extensively studied. In this paper, an institutional-economic framework forms the basis of a cross-sectional comparison of the local economic contributions of state, private, and communal PAs of the Lower Luangwa Valley in the institutionally centralized country of Zambia, and of the Greater Kruger National Park system in the institutionally devolved country of South Africa. Whereas in South Africa, private reserves neighboring the national park generate the majority of economic benefits, in Zambia, wildlife-related benefits from private and communal PAs are few relative to the neighboring national park. The contrast underscores the role of property regimes and other policies in the economic integration of public parks with surrounding landscapes. From an organizational and governance perspective, the performance of state-managed parks in both settings is tied to an ability to retain revenue, while the performance of co-governed PAs is undermined by power inequities between governing partners. These observations and their implications for policy reform are made clearer through the systematic collection and analysis of PA economic data, which our framework can guide.
Chapter 5: Suggests several ways that wildlife managers, short of reinstating markets for wild game meat, can increase the number of consumptive users and political support for the sustainable, consumptive use of wildlife. The most important suggestion is for the legalization of proxy hunting, where needed, to meet local scientific wildlife management goals, as a way to increase wild game harvests short of full-blown re-commercialization.KeywordsNorth American Wildlife Conservation ModeScientific wildlife managementProxy huntingWild game huntingRe-commercialization of markets for wild game meat
The concept of resilience has evolved considerably since Holling's (1973) seminal paper. Different interpretations of what is meant by resilience, however, cause confusion. Resilience of a system needs to be considered in terms of the attributes that govern the system's dynamics. Three related attributes of social-ecological systems (SESs) determine their future trajectories: resilience, adaptability, and transformability. Resilience (the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks) has four components-latitude, resistance, precariousness, and panarchy-most readily portrayed using the metaphor of a stability landscape. Adaptability is the capacity of actors in the system to influence resilience (in a SES, essentially to manage it). There are four general ways in which this can be done, corresponding to the four aspects of resilience. Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when ecological, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable. The implications of this interpretation of SES dynamics for sustainability science include changing the focus from seeking optimal states and the determinants of maximum sustainable yield (the MSY paradigm), to resilience analysis, adaptive resource management, and adaptive governance.
The incentives for landholders to conserve wildlife were removed when colonial governments expropriated this resource from landholders. In Zimbabwe, this process has been reversed with some success under the communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE). Government has devolved the authority for wildlife to rural communities. Rural communities now manage and market their wildlife, receive benefits from its sale directly, and are beginning to value and conserve it. This paper uses an example to illustrate some of the principles underlying CAMPFIRE, and shows how these practices are spreading throughout the country. It argues that wildlife will only survive in most of Africa if profitable sustainable utilization is combined with defined access to resources. It attacks "protectionism' because removing the value from wildlife will remove its ability to compete for space and will ultimately sabotage programmes like CAMPFIRE that at least have some chance of succeeding. -Author