E3 Journal of Environmental Research and Management Vol. 5(2). pp. 042-046, February, 2014
Available online http://www.e3journals.org
ISSN 2141-7466 © E3 Journals 2014
An assessment of local people’s participation in natural
resources conservation in southern Zimbabwe
Edson Gandiwa1*, Patience Zisadza-Gandiwa2, Clayton Mashapa3, Elias Libombo4 and Never
1School of Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Private Bag 7724, Chinhoyi,
2Transfrontier Conservation Areas Unit, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, P.O. Box CY 140,
Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
3Department of Natural Resources and Wildlife Management, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Africa
University, P. O Box 1320, Mutare, Zimbabwe
4Scientific Services, Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Private Bag 7003,
Accepted 18 February, 2014
We assessed the participation of local people in community-based natural resources management under the
Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) in southern Zimbabwe. We
focused on four randomly selected CAMPFIRE communities surrounding Gonarezhou National Park. Data were
collected in October 2013 through semi-structured questionnaires administered through interviews. Our results
showed that there were significantly more men than women in the CAMPFIRE committees. Surprisingly, we
recorded that no youths, those below the age of 25 years, were part of the CAMPFIRE committees. CAMPFIRE
committee members across the study area were within the age range of 25–60 years. We therefore recommend
that: (i) youths should be deliberately included in management committees focussing on natural resources
conservation, and (ii) conservation awareness and education needs to be streamlined and enhanced to improve
attitudes of both the elderly and youths toward community-based natural resources management initiatives.
Key words: CAMPFIRE, community-based natural resource management, Gonarezhou National Park, local people,
The role of government and the peoples’ demographic
pattern in regulating community-based natural resources
management is being questioned, both from pragmatic
and ethical viewpoints of sustainability of enhancing
natural resources management (Muchapondwa, 2003;
Mugabe, 2004). Devolution over local natural resource
management is clearly crafted in the case of wildlife in
Zimbabwe, through the Communal Area Management
Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE)
(Jones and Murphree, 2001; Muboko and Murindagomo,
2014), a programme which grants appropriate authority to
rural district councils underpinned by Zimbabwe’s Parks
*Corresponding authors: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
And Wildlife Act (1975) and its subsequent amendments.
CAMPFIRE aims to ensure that revenue derived from
wildlife, i.e., hunting concessions, trophies, safaris and
eco-tourism, directly reaches rural communities, rural
district councils and not just the central national treasury
(Hasler, 1999; Alexander and McGregor, 2000).
Under Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975,
hunting and ranching of non-endangered wildlife is
allowed in both communal and commercial farming
areas, under the logic of sustainable utilization
philosophy (ZPWMA, 2011). CAMPFIRE seeks to have
national government, primarily through the Zimbabwe
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, work in
conjunction with local communities and rural district
authorities to broaden local ownership and management
of wildlife and other natural resources (Logan and
Moseley, 2002). The CAMPFIRE program also stipulates
about 55% of benefits which result from local custody and
exploitation of natural resources should accrue to the
local community directly (Hasler, 1999; Jonga, 2011).
The institutional structure for the management of wildlife
and other natural resources is centred on rural district
councils, ward development committees, village
development committees and local traditional leaders
(Murphree, 2001). CAMPFIRE, as described by its
supporters, is targeted at financially aiding local people
who live in constant contact with potentially dangerous,
albeit potentially lucrative, wildlife (Bond, 2001; Muir-
Leresche et al., 2003).
Under CAMPFIRE, all community members become
shareholders in the cooperative. Ideally, they receive
benefits from income, employment, production and
community development generated by tourism, ivory
culling, meat marketing and problem animal control. Our
study aimed at examining the nature and extent of local
people’s participation in natural resources management,
i.e., CAMPFIRE in southern Zimbabwe. Recent studies in
southern Zimbabwe suggest that the active involvement
of local people in decision making regarding community-
based natural resources management is important in the
perceived effectiveness and success of CAMPFIRE
programs (Gandiwa, 2013; Gandiwa et al., 2013).
Therefore, one possible hypothesis is that the CAMPFIFE
program could be less attractive to the youths, i.e., those
aged between 15 and 24 years. If such a hypothesis
holds, then what are the chances for the youths to
provide an efficient, innovative and productive labour
force for rural development, food security and livelihoods
restoration through sustainable natural resources
management within the CAMPFIRE program in
Zimbabwe and elsewhere in sub-Sahara Africa?
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Our study focused on four randomly selected CAMPFIRE
communities (i.e., Chibwedziva, Muhlanguleni,
Chibhava/Hlengwe, and Ndali) adjacent to Gonarezhou
National Park in southern Zimbabwe. The four study sites
are all communal areas under Chiredzi District.
CAMPFIRE programs were implemented in the study
area in the early 1990s. More details about the
administrative structure of CAMPFIRE are provided by
Gandiwa (2013). Gonarezhou National Park (lying
between 21° 00´–22° 15´S and 30° 15´–32° 30´ E) is the
second largest protected area in Zimbabwe, with a spatial
extent of 5,053 km2. Gonarezhou National Park borders
Mozambique and South Africa, and is part of the Great
Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. The park is
endowed with diverse animal, plant, bird and fish species
(ZPWMA, 2011; Gandiwa et al. 2012).
Gandiwa et al 043
Within the four randomly selected communities, following
the method outlined by Gandiwa et al. (2013), interviews
with the aid of a semi-structured questionnaire were
conducted with CAMPFIRE committee secretaries in
October 2013 since these had good knowledge of
CAMPFIRE programs. Pre-testing was conducted in two
CAMPFIRE committees, outside of the study
communities to ensure that all questions were clear, and
a final version of the questionnaire was prepared for
sampling. Interview dates were communicated to the four
selected CAMPFIRE committees one or two days in
advance. Before conducting the interviews, the general
purpose of the study was explained. Interviews were
conducted in English language. We specifically
addressed the following topics: (i) number of people in
the CAMPFIRE committee, (ii) gender composition in the
CAMPFIRE committee, (iii) ages of the CAMPFIRE
committee members, (iv) reasons for the involvement or
non-involvement by the youths, and (v) suggestions for
further improving the involving of the youth in natural
resources management. Interviews took approximately
35 minutes to complete.
Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the
property of the interview response data. The median as a
measure for central tendency and the range to represent
the variability in response data were computed for some
of the interview response data. We used Chi-square
goodness-of-fit tests to analyse data on the (i) number of
people in the CAMPFIRE committees, and (ii) gender
composition in the CAMPFIRE committees using
STATISTICA version 7 for Windows (StatSoft, 2001). A P
value < 0.05 was deemed significant. Moreover, data on
the reasons for the involvement or non-involvement by
the youths, and suggestions for further improving the
involving of the youth in natural resources management
were qualitatively analysed.
Our study showed that there were no significant
differences in the number of CAMPFIRE committee
members across the four study communities (median = 9,
range = 7–10; χ2 = 0.77, df = 3, P = 0.857). There were
significantly more men (median = 6; range = 5–7) than
women (median 2.5; range = 2–4) in CAMPFIRE
committees across the four study communities (Table 1;
χ2 = 4.12, df = 1, P = 0.042). Moreover, CAMPFIRE
committee members across the study area were within
the age range of 25–60 years.(Table 1)
044 E3. J. Environ. Res. Manage.
Table 1: Composition of the CAMPFIRE committees across the study area
Number of CAMPFIRE committee members 10 7 10 8 35
Number of men in CAMPFIRE committee 7 5 6 6 24
Number of women in CAMPFIRE committee 3 2 4 2 11
Our results showed that no youths were part of the
CAMPFIRE committees in the four study communities.
This was attributed to the following: (i) a higher proportion
of the youths were engaged and/or preferred employment
in which they got a monthly salary mostly outside their
rural communities, and (ii) youths were not mostly voted
for and/or elected by local people. Apart from being left
out in CAMPFIRE programs, the local readily available
youths were reported to be pre-occupied by educational
activities, cross-border trading, and sporting activities.
Interestingly, the respondents suggested that: (i) there
was need for communities to involve the youths through
selecting them in the CAMPFIRE committees, and (ii)
local CAMPFIRE constitutions needed to be amended to
ensure that youths participate in CAMPFIRE committees
through having a set quota the number of youths.
However, it was highlighted that the youths benefit from
CAMPFIRE program proceeds since these are directed
to family groups and/or community infrastructural
We recorded fewer women than men in the four sampled
CAMPFIRE committees in southern Zimbabwe. This
situation can be explained by two main reasons. First,
community-based natural resources management is
relatively more easily fitted into African men's daily
chores. Second, as stated by Goodwin (2009), men in
African households dominate natural resources
management activities because they continue to bear
primary responsibility for household sustenance and well-
being. It is important for rural communities in natural
resources management and development programs like
CAMPFIRE to promote gender equality so that both men
and women have an equal opportunity to benefit from
and contribute to economic, social, cultural, and political
development (United Nation, 2013). This means that the
local people involved in CAMPFIRE ought to take into
consideration: (i) how the different roles, responsibilities,
and status of men and women affect the work of natural
resources management; and (ii) how the expected
CAMPFIRE outputs and impact affect men and women.
Similarly, in some socially conservative communities,
particularly in Africa, men and women participation in
developmental projects is heavily influenced by social
norms (Beach, 1980). It is well-understood that men have
more access to and control over natural resources and
decision making largely due to traditional and/or cultural
values, and societal expectations (Berry, 1989).
Addressing these concerns takes into account not only
the different roles of men and women, but also the
relationship between men and women, and the broader
institutional and social structures that support them
Our study revealed that CAMPFIRE committees in
southern Zimbabwe is founded on a gender and age-
based division of labour, reminiscent of what is found
throughout sub-Sahara Africa, wherein the middle-aged
and elderly men and women (25–60 years) are actively
involved in community-based natural resources
management activities than their youth counterparts
(Gumbo, 1993; Matowanyika, 1997). This is likely linked
to the fact that youth unemployment have developed into
a cultural phenomenon, i.e., many of the unemployed
urban youths are in fact of rural origins, and are hanging
on in the cities to avoid returning to their villages, where
they will be expected to help in agriculture and natural
resources management, and experience subordination to
the older generations (White, 2012). Fundamentally, it
appears as if the diversifying modern economy in the
African context, makes community-based natural
resource management under CAMPFIRE less attractive
as an economic pursuit, and makes dwelling in rural
areas less desirable as a lifestyle choice for the youth.
Honey (1999) articulated best practices and guiding
principles of ecotourism, one of which was the need for
communities to genuinely benefit from the ecotourism
activity and to be provided a means of influencing
protected area management to embrace the youth. To do
the latter, Phillips (2003) argued that protected area
managers in mostly developing countries must be skilled
in engaging local communities in dialogue, and identifying
win-win management scenarios for protected areas, and
the youthful local people. Previous research has
demonstrated the success of such community-based
natural resources management participation in numerous
developing countries around the world, including Ecuador
(Becker et al., 2005), Cameroon (Bauer, 2003), and
South Africa (Farrell and Marlon, 2002). These benefits
range from economic opportunity for the youth, and the
wider population structure to mutual appreciation for
protected areas and community-based natural resources
In 2011, the Australian Government announced an
Indigenous Ranger Cadetship Programme targeting the
youths (DEEWR, 2011). The aim of the programme was
to provide indigenous young people with the necessary
skills and knowledge to become rangers. This
government initiative has the potential to significantly
influence youth engagement within the natural resources
management sector. Zimbabwe and other African
countries could take a leaf from the Australian Indigenous
Ranger Cadetship Programme that empowers the youth
towards community-based natural resources
management. Thus, the lack of engagement of youths in
natural resources management is a priority concern that
needs to be addressed. This engagement is vital to
meeting the demands of the natural resources
management sector given the emerging international
environmental issues and modern technological
developments (Aslin and Brown, 2004). Importantly,
greater youth’s engagement could gradually replace the
‘ageing’ group of natural resources management
practitioners in some communities, where a strategic
approach to succession planning is necessary. Moreover,
engagement in natural resources management is also
seen as a means of improving youth’s self-esteem and
an alternative to less desirable social activities.
While indigenous youth engagement is seen as a
priority, it cannot be assumed that indigenous youths are
readily attracted to a career in natural resources
management. In a study of employment outcomes for the
Indigenous Ranger Cadetship Programme in Australia, a
majority of graduates of the programme subsequently
gained employment in other industries (Fordham et al.,
2010). It is essential to acknowledge that this does not
detract from the importance of these programmes; indeed
it emphasises the value of investing in youth engagement
to enhance job readiness for indigenous youth across a
range of employment opportunities. Rather than focusing
solely upon contemporary wildlife science, training should
recognise and incorporate indigenous ecological
knowledge as an integral part of the overall set of skills
and knowledge that can be applied to land management
by indigenous youths. These complementarities of
contemporary science and indigenous ecological
knowledge in natural resources management have been
well documented in the literature (e.g., Henry, 2006;
Fordham et al., 2010; DEEWR, 2011; Gandiwa, 2012). In
view of the ongoing rural poverty, the relatively high
levels of unemployment in Zimbabwe (ZimVac, 2012),
and ‘ageing’ local people involvement in community-
based natural resources management, the African
governments could be urged to advocate for policy
enactments that should pay more attention to promote
attractive viable relationships among women, young
people, and community-based natural resources
management (Berkes, 2004). Benefits like direct income
including roadwork, entertainment centres, college
buildings, and other rural modern infrastructure
Gandiwa et al 045
improvements related to CAMPFIRE programs which
enhance rural life, provide employment, and
entrepreneurial opportunities for youths could be a pull
factor for the active young workforce to play their role as
anticipated in community-based natural resources
management within the CAMPFIRE program.
Our study recorded that the youths and women in
southern Zimbabwe like elsewhere in Africa, have a low
level of participating in community-based natural
resources management. The African youths workforce
tends to prefer to engage in formal employment where
individual income are guaranteed as compared to family
group and/or community benefits derived from
CAMPFIRE programs. The transaction costs of
institutional set-up and operations for community-based
natural resources management may be high with little
direct individual benefit disbursement, to the point where
the CAMPFIFE program could be less attractive to the
youths. Moreover, our results show that there is a gender
bias in preference of men over women in CAMPFIRE
committee membership selection. Thus, for the women
and youths to provide an efficient, innovative and
productive labour force for rural development, and food
security through sustainable community-based natural
resources management within CAMPFIRE programs, we
recommend the following: (i) decisions and actions
regarding community-based natural resources
management need to include the women and youths in
management structures, and (ii) conservation awareness
and education need to be streamlined and enhanced to
improve attitudes of both the elderly and youths towards
collective appreciation linked to attractive benefits of
community-based natural resources management
We are grateful to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife
Management Authority, Chiredzi Rural District Council,
and CAMPFIRE committees in communities adjacent to
Gonarezhou National Park for supporting this study. We
also thank an anonymous reviewer for the constructive
comments and suggestions, which helped improve the
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