CAMPFIRE Revenue Distribution
By joining CAMPFIRE Association, RDCs, subscribed to the “principle of the devolution of the custodianship of wildlife resources to producer communities”. Acceptance of this principle was also a condition for the conferment of Appropriate Authority status on the RDC by government. Although CAMPFIRE Guidelines stipulating that communities would receive 50% of gross revenue were developed by government in 1991, no legal mechanisms were provided to ensure that producer communities indeed received such income. Normal practice dictated that all payments for safari operations, for example, were to be received and receipted by RDCs before distribution. In 2002, CAMPFIRE members increased the level of community dividends from gross revenue from 50% to 55% as minimum payment, while the council levy remained at 15%, and the RDC project management allocation and CAMPFIRE Association levy was adjusted to 26% and 4% respectively, in line with the revised CAMPFIRE Revenue Guidelines. These guidelines were also made part of the CAMPFIRE Association Constitution in 2003 as a measure of increasing income to the communities involved in CAMPFIRE and to serve as a mechanism of greater accountability and transparency. This was the first major step in many years towards addressing negative impressions about CAMPFIRE, such as delays in disbursement, non-disbursement and underpayment of community dividends.
The Association and current key partners in the implementation of CAMPFIRE, i.e. the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, and WWF SARPO, together with RDCs involved in safari hunting have taken further corrective measures since 2004 aimed at renewing interest in the program by communities co-existing with wildlife, improving the significance of wildlife management as a form of land use, and developing more effective ways of overseeing conformity with the terms and conditions of Appropriate Authority on communal land. These measures have culminated in a new payment system in which Safari Operators make separate payments according to each category of CAMPFIRE beneficiaries, i.e. the respective community ward(s), RDC, and CA, after each hunt, or every month. This initiative, called the Direct Payment System, was successfully piloted in Guruve District (now Mbire) from August 2005.
The above system, operational in 10 major hunting districts to date, is one of the practical steps taken within the CAMPFIRE programme to ensure that communities living with wildlife on a daily basis are an important human resource that can assist the country in conserving valuable resources in their proximity, provided they realize tangible benefits. These measures have also been complemented by other initiatives such as improved management of safari hunting contracts and reporting, as well as the review of trophy fees and other charges, which are being implemented concurrently in all districts.
The last 15 years of CAMPFIRE implementation have shown that interest in natural resource management is closely linked to the levels of benefits that are received at the community level. The more benefits received by communities, the greater will be their interest and investment in wildlife. Several schools, clinics and income generating projects have been established out of CAMPFIRE funds. Wildlife areas have been maintained, and wildlife populations in CAMPFIRE areas are increasing due to the sustainable off-takes maintained through a highly consultative quota setting process each year. With improved revenue distribution and payment mechanisms, micro-lending schemes have been introduced in some areas so that impact of CAMPFIRE revenue is felt at individual household level.