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Zimbabwe Ecotourism

Campfire

The acronym stands for Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources. This came about as a result of clashes between a tribal community that was moved off its land in 1966 to make way for a wildlife reserve Ghonarezhou National Park and the Department of National Parks. This community is today known as the Mahenye community and is situated just outside Ghonarezhou. It is also regarded as Zimbabwe's finest example of a CAMPFIRE programme, which is all about ensuring that wildlife and rural communities can coexist, something, which definitely wasn't happening 20 years ago.


The people of Mahenye are Shangaan. Their own culture of conserving natural resources, i.e. the wildlife, for the future was disturbed with the arrival of European settlers at the turn of the century and their foreign concept that the wildlife belonged to the state. Thus the community was moved off the land in 1966 to make way for Ghonarezhou National Park, which was only proclaimed in 1975. This led to the community looking on wildlife, which had been their lifeblood, as a nuisance, damaging their homes and destroying their crops. As a result they were forced to poach for their own subsistence and even helped commercial poachers. For this they were raided by police and often imprisoned, while the unseen commercial poachers escaped unpunished.

In 1982, with the assistance of local rancher Clive Stockil, who'd grown up with the community and spoke Shangaan fluently, the Department of National Parks reached a groundbreaking agreement with the people of Mahenye. It allowed them to use the benefits of wildlife for the development of the community, giving them an incentive to preserve the animals on their land and in the National Park.

Since then people have received the meat and a percentage of the revenue from commercial hunting on their land, with funds being used to build classrooms, clinics, mills and provide for the supply of electricity and water. Meat handouts have a positive spin-off as they are accompanied by traditional hunting celebrations, which reinforce community spirit and Shangaan culture, and the community is known to have aided Park officials in catching one of the top commercial poachers in the area. Since those early days, the Mahenye community has formed a partnership with Zimbabwe Sun Ltd to develop photographic safaris in the area, the result being the creation of Mahenye and Chilo Gorge Safari lodges, which were built and are staffed by community members.

Zimbabwe Ecotourism

The success of Campfire-type programmes was best and quite unwittingly demonstrated by the Mahenye community during the '92 drought. In the years prior to the drought most communal people in this part of the country had relied on donor aid to feed themselves, with the result that by the time the drought came around their crops were non-existent and their cattle had died. The only people who didn't have to rely on donor aid were the Mahenye community. Good numbers of wildlife around them also survived. They had survived the worst drought in living memory merely through the sustainable utilisation of their wildlife resources.

Manyuli Springs in Zimbabwe has been established to provide a wildlife refuge between Chizarira and Matusadona National Parks. Chris Worden and Neels Ferrieira already worked in wildlife conservation but have long shared the ambition to use photographic safaris as the vehicle to establish a further area for this cause. Fifteen years ago the patch of land now called Manyuli Springs supported just one village. In 1982, after a rogue lioness with a taste for young girls had killed 13 children, the villagers decided to leave. Neels and Chris found a world where views stretched for 40 miles without a single light or fire to break the rolling landscape. They applied for a license to run the area as a CAMPFIRE Project, in which a percentage of the turnover is remitted directly to those living nearest. The actual percentage is a matter of negotiation. Chris and Neels offered an unprecedented 10%, significantly higher than that currently paid by the most of Zimbabwe's luxury camps.

In return they were awarded a 10-year concession to develop the area for tourism. They were fighting rival bids by neighbouring camps who wished to use the land for hunting. Using detailed forecasts of visitor numbers the pair proved that using the area for photographic safaris would generate more money for the immediate area and set a generous minimum to be paid while the project got underway. Local community leaders were invited to give their blessing to the project and people from the local village were hired. Already the first visitors have come to explore this unspoilt area.

Save Valley Conservancy

In the 1970's, state land in Zimbabwe's south east lowveld, rich in diversity of flora and fauna, was turned over to cattle ranching. Fences were constructed, impeding the movement of wild animals, and predators were shot to protect the cattle. The costs of beef production gradually rose and stocking rate increased to meet costs. But a cycle of droughts, culminating in the disaster of 1992, destroyed the cattle industry. Proposals for the Save Valley Conservancy, one of the three similar projects, were mooted before the final drought as an exercise in conserving the black rhino, which were being heavily poached in state controlled National Parks. Some 20 animals had been re-located from the Zambezi valley to one of the ranches, from where they strayed on to other properties. There arose the need for a co-ordinated programme for their monitoring and protection.

Twenty five ranches were bound together under a mutually agreed constitution. All internal fences were torn down, creating a free movement of wildlife over an area of nearly 350km2 . The presence of foot and mouth disease in the newly-introducted buffalo population required the construction of a 350 kilometre double veterinary fence around the conservancy, from which all cattle were banished. The land owners were committed solely to wildlife utilization.

Some 600 elephants were moved from the nearby Gonarezhou National Park in 1993. This was the first successful relocation of large numbers of elephants ever undertaken and proved that, where the funding is available, translocation of this species can be viable alternative to culling. The elephant population in the Save Valley Conservancy has now increased to around 800 individuals. Black rhino have been introduced and they have bred with spectacular success. Only one has been lost, to natural causes. There are a few White rhino, and the conservancy has plans to purchase more from the National Parks Board. The animals are protected by teams of armed scouts, but further protection is offered by educating the local community on the intrinsic value of the species and by providing incentives for local people to participate in the conservation exercise.

Antelope populations have burgeoned. The tapestry is now complete except for roan and Lichtenstein's hartebeest, both of which once occurred here in large numbers. There are plans to re-introduce both species soon. And the birdlife has made a complete recovery, with around 400species which have been recorded. Finding for the project was originally provided by the Beit Trust and others, but it has been so successful that it is now self-funding.

Those landowners who rely upon trophy hunting can not shoot whatever they want. Animal quotas are set by committee, which relies upon data on game numbers collected by members driving over carefully arranged routes, together with landowner estimates. If an owner is tempted to exaggerate his game numbers, his figures will soon be challenged by his neighbours, so mean population aggregates tend to be fairly accurate. Experience over the past six years has shown that members' requirements for quota animals has generally fallen well below the numbers the conservancy's ecological advisors have recommended as sustainable.

One of the founding principles of the Save Valley Conservancy constitution is to involve the peasant community living on the borders of the scheme in the conservation concept in a direct and practical way. The Conservancy Trust - a separate entity from the committee - will purchase wildlife, which will then be released into the protected area. As animals breed, the surplus will be auctioned. Profits from these sales are to be invested in community themselves.
It remains to be seen how far these plans are implemented, but opportunities are naturally created for local people by an increase in tourism. These include crafting curios, growing vegetables for game lodges, and working employees of the conservancy.

International Recognition

It was the reintroduction of the starving families of elephant from Ghonarezhou in 1992 - the first time that adult elephant had been moved as family units - that brought international recognition to the Conservancy. Six hundred were relocated, with that number around 700 today. The operation, together with the success of the black rhino relocations and the Conservancy's large numbers of cheetah and painted hunting dogs (as a result of small lion and hyena numbers), has placed it firmly among the successes on southern Africa's conservation map. Today the Save Valley Conservancy provides an example for projects elsewhere, with Clive Stockil saying that the World Bank has looked at it as a model for the proposed peace park that will hopefully one day link Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. It has proven the resilience of degraded natural ecosystems given a chance to restore themselves and could also provide a resource pool of game species for reintroduction to other depleted areas. Which is just what neighbouring Mozambique needs.

The Wildlife Society Of Zimbabwe

Landlocked Zimbabwe, with an area of 390 580 km2 and a population of over 12 million, is about three times the size of England and half the size of Texas. The majority of the population lives in rural areas, with only about 30% based in urban centres. A land of diverse flora and fauna, Zimbabwe ranges in altitude from less than 250m above sea level to over 2600m.

The Problem
This richly endowed and beautiful country is confronted by critical environmental and ecological problems. Look around and you will see

Remember:
The world's resources are finite, the resilience of ecosystems is limited, the danger point has already been reached

Zimbabwe has the human resources and commitment to ensure sustainable usage and conservation of their natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The Wildlife Society of Zimbabwe aims to play a major role towards the attainment of this objective.

Monde Village

Located 14 km from Victoria Falls, Monde Village provides an insight into Ndebele and Namibian cultures and lifestyles. The visit includes invitations to meet families in their homes, examples of traditional cuisine, meeting a traditional healer and demonstrations of his medicines, visits to the surrounding fields to see the methods of agriculture and animal husbandry that are the foundation of a subsistence community, watch wood carvers at work, visit to the local shrine and a discussion of traditional beliefs and religion with the spiritual leaders.

Eastern Highlands

Honde Valley and Nyanga:
This is an area of mixed commercial and small scale tea, coffee and banana farms and provides the opportunity to meet the Shona people of Manicaland. Included in the visit is a tour of the village showing all aspects of day to day living, a visit to Mutarazi waterfalls, a trip to a plantation and travel by ox-driven carts.

Penhalonga:
This is a historic mining town with a rich history and the visit includes a full introduction to the Shona culture.

Vumba:
It is situated in the misty mountain ranges that gaze over to Mozambique. The visit includes tours of plantations and examples of traditional house building whilst also seeing the surruonding countryside.

Mutare:
This urban tour takes in the local school, market, a home visit and tour of the town.

All the above trips are organised by Vimbiso Touring Co. whose aim is to offer the chance to see African life up close and experience authentic traditional African customs in an unsimulated environment.

Honde Valley and Nyanga:
This is an area of mixed commercial and small scale tea, coffee and banana farms and provides the opportunity to meet the Shona people of Manicaland. Included in the visit is a tour of the village showing all aspects of day to day living, a visit to Mutarazi waterfalls, a trip to a plantation and travel by ox-driven carts.

Penhalonga:
This is a historic mining town with a rich history and the visit includes a full introduction to the Shona culture.

Vumba:
It is situated in the misty mountain ranges that gaze over to Mozambique. The visit includes tours of plantations and examples of traditional house building whilst also seeing the surruonding countryside.

Mutare:
This urban tour takes in the local school, market, a home visit and tour of the town.

All the above trips are organised by Vimbiso Touring Co. whose aim is to offer the chance to see African life up close and experience authentic traditional African customs in an unsimulated environment.

Conservation and People

Since the turn of the century, Zimbabwe's human population has grown from 500,000 to 12 million. As pressures to develop and farm wild lands increase, so too does the need for retreat from the chaos. Currently, the official policy regarding the environment is one of 'sustained yield use'; that is, hunting is limited to the level of natural growth in the wildlife population. Safari areas allow game hunting and the government sites their annual net of millions of dollars in foreign exchange as justification for their existence and therefore, for wildlife conservation.

Zimbabwe's indigenous flora is now becoming as widely recognized as its distinctive wildlife and scenery. It is being actively promoted by adventure trail, camera and hunting safari businesses with high quality safari lodge accommodation. A new breed of developers is behind the initiative-mostly large-scale commercial farmers.

Through sharing(with the peasant farming population) the proceeds of careful wildlife management by working through a recently established organization, Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, also known as Campfire, the peasant farmers are becoming the direct beneficiaries of their conservationist efforts.

Although ivory sales are yet to be restarted and many tonnes of the current ivory stocks are the property of the existing peasant farming districts, Z$25 million was realised in 1997 from the sale of hunting rights to tourist concessions in these areas.

Contentious issues that have clouded Zimbabwe's popularity in the tourist business include the changed nature of government support for National Parks authorities and the unpopular two or three-tier tariff structure applied by most hotels and other tourist facilities.

International Recognition

It was the reintroduction of the starving families of elephant from Ghonarezhou in 1992 - the first time that adult elephant had been moved as family units - that brought international recognition to the Conservancy. Six hundred were relocated, with that number around 700 today. The operation, together with the success of the black rhino relocations and the Conservancy's large numbers of cheetah and painted hunting dogs (as a result of small lion and hyena numbers), has placed it firmly among the successes on southern Africa's conservation map. Today the Save Valley Conservancy provides an example for projects elsewhere, with Clive Stockil saying that the World Bank has looked at it as a model for the proposed peace park that will hopefully one day link Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. It has proven the resilience of degraded natural ecosystems given a chance to restore themselves and could also provide a resource pool of game species for reintroduction to other depleted areas. Which is just what neighbouring Mozambique needs.

Last Updated on Wednesday 25th November 2009

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