Participation and Devolution in Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE Program: Findings from Local Projects in Mahenye and Nyaminyami

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2007-03-14

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Participation and devolution are central components of CAMPFIRE, Zimbabwe's community-based natural resource management program. Here I report the results of case studies of two important CAMPFIRE projects, one in Mahenye ward and the other in Nyaminyami district. These two influential projects were both studied repeatedly up through 2000. Since 2000, however, research on CAMPFIRE has been limited by two powerful external shocks: the end of international donor funding for CAMPFIRE and the beginning of Zimbabwe's severe national political and economic crisis. In my research, conducted in 2004 and 2006, I compared current conditions in the two sites with results reported in pre-2000 studies. Through this comparison, I examined the impact of the two external shocks on project performance. In my fieldwork, I focused on the quality of community participation and the level of devolution of authority for wildlife management. Key findings from the case studies include: (1) the extent and quality of community participation has declined sharply in both sites; (2) capture of benefits by local elites has contributed significantly to these declines; (3) lack of full devolution to the communities, which is frequently cited as a critical weakness in CAMPFIRE, played a relatively minor role in shaping outcomes; (4) the loss of NGO support that followed the end of donor funding had severe negative effects on outcomes; and (5) the national political and economic crisis, while detrimental, had less of an impact than expected. After discussing these findings, I offer recommendations for addressing problems of participation and devolution in CAMPFIRE.

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