About Campfire Association & FAQs
The Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is a community based natural resources management (CBNRM) programme developed by the Government of Zimbabwe in the late 1980s. The programme is principally designed to promote the sustainable utilisation of natural resources and preserving the rich natural heritage of Zimbabwe, through the generation of income for rural communities. CAMPFIRE operates with the support of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, as part of its conservation function in rural areas, in which 58 out of 60 Rural District Councils (RDCs) in Zimbabwe participate.
At national level, CAMPFIRE is an association governed by a Constitution of the member RDCs, and is known as the CAMPFIRE Association (CA). The Association is legally recognized as a Welfare Organisation (W/O 15/94) registered in Zimbabwe in terms of the Welfare Organizations Act [Chapter 93].
What is CAMPFIRE?
Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is an exploration of rural development and conservation in Zimbabwe. It seeks to restructure the control of Zimbabwe's countryside, giving people alternative ways of using their natural resources. CAMPFIRE, designed and managed entirely by Zimbabweans, emerged in the mid-1980's with the recognition that as long as wildlife remained the property of the state no one would invest in it as a resource.
Since 1975, Zimbabwe has allowed private property holders to claim ownership of wildlife on their land and to benefit from its use. Under CAMPFIRE, people living on Zimbabwe's impoverished communal lands, which represent 42% of the country, claim the same right of proprietorship. Conceptually, CAMPFIRE includes all natural resources, but its focus has been wildlife management in communal areas, particularly those adjacent to national parks, where people and animals compete for scarce resources. Since its official inception in 1989, CAMPFIRE has engaged more than a quarter of a million people in the practice of managing wildlife and reaping the benefits of using wild lands.
How does CAMPFIRE work?
CAMPFIRE begins when a rural community, through its elected representative body, the Rural District Council, asks the government's wildlife department to grant them the legal authority to manage its wildlife resources, and demonstrates its capacity to do so. By granting people control over their resources, CAMPFIRE makes wildlife valuable to local communities because it is an economically and ecologically sound land use. The projects these communities devise to take advantage of this new-found value vary from district to district.
Most communities sell photographic or hunting concessions to tour operators - under rules and hunting quotas established in consultation with the wildlife department. Others choose to hunt or crop animal populations themselves, and many are looking at other resources, such as forest products. The revenues from these efforts generally go directly to households, which decide how to use the money, often opting for communal efforts such as grinding mills or other development projects. The councils, however, have the right to levy these revenues.Where is CAMPFIRE found?
CAMPFIRE operates in Zimbabwe's communal lands, created early in this century when Europeans settling in the then 'Rhodesia' claimed the most fertile land and forced much of the indigenous population into semi-arid and arid areas. These now contain more than five million people, almost half the national population. Many of the communal lands have too little or unreliable rainfall for agriculture, but provide excellent wildlife habitat.
Geographical location (see map above)
Districts Nearest to National Parks are the Most Profitable
The map above clearly shows that CAMPFIRE operations earn the highest revenues if they are located adjacent to larger National Parks that support plentiful populations of game. This is primarily because the well-managed game populations inside the parks grow and spill over into the unprotected areas. The animals moving onto community owned-land then become the property of the local people and can be harvested or sold to local hunting safari operators for a premium.
CAMPFIRE is an attempt to use economic incentives to encourage the most appropriate management system for these fragile areas. CAMPFIRE began in the dry, remote Zambezi Valley, parts of which still harbour the tsetse fly, a carrier of deadly livestock disease. The historical presence of the tsetse fly together with its remoteness resulted in almost half of the Zambezi Valley being set aside for wildlife protection, including national parks. The other half of the land is communally held, but the exclusion of cattle restricted human settlement, making the Zambezi Valley a favourable environment for wildlife and fertile ground for CAMPFIRE.Is CAMPFIRE replacing National Parks?
Zimbabwe has set aside, in perpetuity, more than 12% of its land as protected wildlife areas. Most of these are surrounded by communal lands. CAMPFIRE will help prevent the protected areas from becoming islands in a sea of development by making wildlife valuable for nearby communities.
CAMPFIRE, however, was never intended as a way to create buffer zones around national parks, but as a rural development program with a strong element of community empowerment. One spin-off is that CAMPFIRE has enabled communities to enter into a debate on the management of protected areas, enhancing the likelihood of joint planning between these communities and national parks. Such 'co-management' may indeed hold the best hope for the future of national parks across Africa.
What is the future of CAMPFIRE?
CAMPFIRE has become a movement in rural Zimbabwe. Although CAMPFIRE appears to be concerned with wildlife management, more important is the control it grants people over their own future. Until the introduction of CAMPFIRE, communal people were not empowered to make decisions about the way they - or others - used their natural resources. CAMPFIRE has become a forum for a wide range of issues, including representation, economic participation, and the governance of communal areas. CAMPFIRE is as concerned with the nature of rural communities and collective decision-making as with the technical challenges of sustainable use of wildlife.
CAMPFIRE is in many ways an exercise in democracy. Rural communities are beginning to appreciate the finite nature of resources and have begun to control immigration into their areas. In the past, many rural communities encouraged immigration in an attempt to increase their political voice. These same communities now recognise the importance of elected representatives who truly understand their needs. Indeed, several members of Zimbabwe's parliament came up through the ranks of CAMPFIRE. It will play a significant role in helping Zimbabwe's economic recovery.
We in CAMPFIRE have always reiterated that our legacy is not in the number of completed clinics, roads, school buildings and other infrastructure projects. These are just the vehicles toward our ultimate legacy of improving the lives of poor communities by empowering them to chart the directions of their local economic development. The programme has done so many infrastructure projects in various districts. The future of CAMPFIRE is to bring benefits from the programme to the doorsteps of households in various producer communities. The programme, in 2006 successful piloted a method of efficiently distributing CAMPFIRE revenue to communities in Mbire district, in which Safari Operators make payments in the names of respective community bank accounts. This showed that revenue sharing and distribution challenges that have affected CAMPFIRE in the past can be resolved, provided all CAMPFIRE districts adopt this method. This was adopted by all CAMPFIRE districts in July 2007. The programme intends to support the development of mechanisms to establish a range of natural resources based household projects, including guinea fowl rearing, rabbits, and medicinal cum herbal gardens in CAMPFIRE districts from ward CAMPFIRE revenues.
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