The importance of the sub-district level for community-based natural resource management in rural Zimbabwe

Produced as part of the Understanding green growth and climate-compatible development CCCEP research programme theme

Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) in Zimbabwe has a long and varied history within a complex and dynamic governance system. Significant amounts of research have critiqued the successes and failures of Zimbabwe’s CBNRM programme – the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resource Use (CAMPFIRE) – across its three decades of implementation. Past research has mainly a focused on specific CAMPFIRE projects and their wider governance structures, in which the district level has been considered as the ‘local’ level. Studies have ignored the complex and important sub-system of natural resource management governance between the district level and the local communities. Thus, there is a lack of understanding of the intricate structures and processes involved in the sub-district system, and a shortfall in research that attempts to understand micro-level realities of managing and governing natural resources. This paper analyses natural resource management using survey, interview and focus group data from four study villages across Binga and Chiredzi Districts in Zimbabwe, all of which have been part of a CAMPFIRE project. Through qualitative assessment of the sub-district natural resource management governance system, the paper unravels past and present, and formal and informal, governance structures and processes. Governance gaps are identified, alongside the implications these have for the involvement of communities and local actors in natural resource management.
Findings stress the need to identify routes to bridge current local level governance gaps and prevent new gaps from forming, such that local knowledge and community empowerment are afforded a more central role in the planning and implementation of CAMPFIRE and other CBNRM initiatives.