Lovemore Lubinda

THE European Union, blamed as the major supporter to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on ivory sales by African countries  in Johannesburg recently, is carrying out a survey to ascertain the state of community based conservation efforts in Zimbabwe, in a bid to rescue them.

Zim News has it on good authority that a review is underway in the Lowveld conservancy area to establish the state of campfire programmes a move that is aimed at collecting views and information that will be used in Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) stakeholder conference, early 2017.

The National Communal Area Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) Review was mandated by the government of Zimbabwe and is being funded by the European Union. To date, a national CBNRM steering committee that includes seven ministries, three authorities that includes Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Forestry Commission and the Environmental Management Agency, CAMPFIRE and the National council of Chiefs, has been set and tasked to gather information on stakeholders.

“We are not relaunching the Campfire programme but funded an evaluation of the Campfire experience, based on a very broad consultation of a wide range of stakeholders, and which, we hope, will lead to some recommendations for the way forward, to be validated in a national workshop by all major stakeholders somewhere in early 2007,” Ambassador Philippe Van-Damme, of the European Union in Zimbabwe told the Zim News.

“We hope that based on the Campfire review, a broader institutional review of the wildlife sector, the Government can come up with an updated wildlife and conservation strategy which will address more efficiently and effectively the governance issues in the sector which the EU and other partners can support.”

The CAMPFIRE programme has come under so many challenges in recent years that include, limited support by donors, differing policy and legislative framework, disputes and invasions of conservancies, poaching perched on the back political instability, bankrupt government and festering corruption has taken a mammoth toll.

The low rate of economic growth, severe reduction of natural resources in areas of high population density, increased frequency of extreme weather(both droughts and floods and HIV/Aids) adds up to a list of bad impacts to the programme.

At its inception in the 1980s, CAMPFIRE was a world class in providing the all important mechanism for communities to benefit from sustainable use of wildlife and other natural resources and so enable harmonious coexistence of people and nature.

The implementation of the (CAMPFIRE) was possible under a 1982 Amendment of the Parks and wildlife Act (1975), which allowed Appropriate Authority ((AA) for wildlife to be devolved to District Councils. Over the last decade, nearly all the 53 district in Zimbabwe have applied for and received AA status. Only 16 of the districts have sufficient wildlife numbers to support trophy-hunting operations.

All of the districts are in areas of lowest agricultural potential, and are technically considered suitable for extensive livestock and wildlife production. Rainfall is low and variable, and droughts frequent.

Wildlife crime is at the top of the international conservation agenda. Poaching and associated illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is devastating populations of iconic wildlife species such as rhinos and elephants, as well as a host of lesser known ones such as pangolins, some birds, reptiles, primates, medicinal plants and timber species.

Wildlife crime is also of concern outside of the conservation community. The scale and sophistication of poaching is unlike anything experienced before and there is evidence of a link to large-scale organised crime and armed/militant groups – with subsequent repercussions for national and international security and stability.

 Ambassador Van-Damme believes that the just concluded Conference of the Parties of CITES in Johannesburg,  will enhance the regulation for trophy hunting in view of a more sustainable and beneficial  exploitation of wildlife.

“We are prepared to help the Government of Zimbabwe to comply with the new regulations, thereby ensuring a constant flow of trophy hunting revenues which can be shared with the communities and reinvested in conservation and in the fight against poaching and wildlife trafficking,” says Ambassador Van-Damme.

In Southern Africa, CITES has the highest profile of any of  current Multinational Environmental Treaties, due to the dependence of most CBNRM programmes on trophy –hunting of key species such as elephants. The high profile of ivory has probably led to a reduction in illegal killings of elephants in Southern Africa. There is however, still substantial and indeed rising demand for ivory in Asia, particularly in China.

Nyaminyami District around the southern shores of Kariba notched up US$32 000 in 1992 in sustainable use of wildlife activities. The levy was paid the local management authority and the district council, the balance was paid directly to the village

CAMPFIRE’s community principles are now spreading and being adapted to projects elsewhere in the region particularly in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

Botswana’s Chobe Enclave situated within the Chobe National Park is the second most important wildlife and tourism area after the Okavango delta. The declaration of protected area has severely reduced the land available to the 7 500 people of the Enclave, whose economy is based upon crop production, livestock production, and natural resources (selling baskets, thatching grass, game meat).