Christmas has certainly come early for Zimbabwe’s hunting communities who are soon going to receive 100% payments from international hunting revenue.
Under the Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources (Campfire), international hunting revenue used to be paid to rural district councils that later paid it to the hunting communities also known as Campfire communities.
“We are going to start paying 100% of international hunting revenue to Campfire communities (local hunting communities) in the next two months,” said Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) director-general, Dr Fulton Mangwanya, speaking at the Hwange Elephant Conference in May this year.
The 100% payment is a big jump from the 60% that Zimbabwean hunting communities have been receiving since the introduction of the Campfire programme in 1989. The remainder of the revenue was paid to support the work of the Campfire Association Secretariat Office in Harare (4%), wildlife and habitat conservation, including managing human-wildlife conflict, anti-poaching operations at the community level by rural district councils and the payment of community rangers (26%). Lastly, 10% was also paid to support rural district councils’ administrative work related to the Campfire programme.
The news that for the first time, Zimbabwean communities are going to receive 100% of international hunting revenue and also decide for themselves how to use it was greeted with excitement and applause by delegates at the May 2022 Hwange Elephant Conference where Mangwanya made the announcement.
This new development seems to be an absolute achievement of the Campfire programme’s goal to radically decentralise wildlife management authority to the grassroots or rural community level.
This time, ZimParks — and not the Zimbabwe Rural District Councils — will take the lead in making sure that this initiative works.
Meanwhile, well-placed Zimbabwe government sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said that “the chiefs are the new signatories on the Campfire international hunting revenue bank accounts and they will decide on how to use the money in consultation with their communities.”
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The Campfire programme was introduced by ZimParks in 1989 under the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Act (Chapter 20:14, 1982). The Act mandates ZimParks to manage wildlife. Using these legal powers, the ZimParks then decided in 1989, to innovatively permit wildlife producer communities to get involved with wildlife management, in order to improve wildlife and habitat conservation by giving them appropriate authority to do so. The communities started receiving international hunting revenue and in turn, use it for wildlife and habitat conservation and also to support their socio-economic wellbeing.
The 100% payment of international hunting revenue to the Campfire communities might signal the return of Campfire to the ZimParks, raising questions about the fate of the Campfire Association secretariat currently headed by Charles Jonga. However, well-placed sources said that, “Jonga should continue with his Campfire Secretariat role after having agreed on certain undisclosed terms with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.”
“In the past, the international hunting revenue money was paid into the Zimbabwe Rural District Councils bank accounts,” said a Zimbabwe government source who spoke on conditions of anonymity expressing optimism that the 100% international hunting revenue payment to the communities would bring greater opportunities for wildlife and habitat conservation, including socioeconomic development. “In some cases, the Rural District Councils abused the money buying vehicles with very little going to the communities.”
Elsewhere, the Hwange District Council Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture officer, Nxolelani Ncube has asked some fair and important questions regarding the fate of the wildlife management partnership between the rural district councils and the communities under the new system that involves 100% payment of international hunting revenue to Campfire communities, into bank accounts managed by local chiefs.
“Remember there is also an element of conservation and administration, maybe people are not privy to what other statutory obligations need to be deducted from that 100% (statutory obligations that make it necessary for deductions to be made from that 100%),” said Ncube.
“There are other statutory obligations that need to be looked into and there are also rural district councils, unless it now means rural district councils are going to go all out on their own.
“It (international hunting revenue) involves many things in terms of problem-animals control and human-wildlife conflict. So where will the rural district councils get the budget to do that from?
“In terms of wildlife and habitat conservation, how will rural district councils get the funds to do that if all the 100% is paid to the communities which is fine but I am saying where will they (rural district councils) get the funds to support the activities that I have mentioned.”
Meanwhile, a leader from the Hwange District hunting community, Eliah Mutale has warned that if no proper international hunting revenue use controls and monitoring are put in place, “the money could be abused by the chiefs and hunting communities.”
“This is a welcome decision to pay Zimbabwean hunting communities 100% international hunting revenue,” said Safari Club International (SCI) Africa coordinator, George Pangeti. “In fact, the international hunters have always argued that the money we take to Africa must go and benefit people who live with and interact with and look after the wild animals. Previously, there were many accusations that the international hunting revenue was being abused and communities were not directly benefiting. But the statement that was made byMangwanya that the money is now going to directly benefit communities will be received with happiness.”
Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe president, Dr Emmanuel Fundira also welcomed the decision to pay Campfire communities 100% of international hunting revenue.
“The idea to give communities 100% payment of international hunting revenue is good as it aims to maximise benefits to local communities living with wildlife,” said Ishmael Chaukura, the chairman of a newly formed Community Campfire Association that aims to lobby for greater community benefits from hunting revenue. “As an Association representing communities we welcome this idea but communities must not forget to use that revenue to pay levies to the rural district councils so that councils as local authorities will continue working together with communities. The new arrangement to pay international hunting revenue directly will also allow communities to receive their income on time, unlike in the past when some rural district councils delayed paying the communities.”
- Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning journalist who writes independently on environment and development issues in Africa and is the author of the book Western Celebration of African Poverty – Animal Rights Versus Human Rights.