The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube in Mabale, Hwange
STUNG by prevalent human-wildlife conflict characterised by loss of lives and livestock, communities living next to Hwange National Park have called for the removal of the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire) saying it was not saving any purpose.
This comes as Government is working on amending the Campfire model to make traditional leaders legal signatories of trust funds generated through resources from the specific local communities. Government came up with the Campfire programme in 1989 as a way of ensuring that communities benefit from wildlife resources in their areas.
Campfire was managed through rural local authorities which after generating funds, distributed them to wards for development programme after a needs assessment. In some communities, schools, clinics and roads have been built using Campfire funds. Funding for Campfire came mostly from the donor community but dried out due to sanctions.
Countrywide consultation in 2016 revealed that Campfire was experiencing institutional, operational, legal and external challenges while being highly dependent on hunting revenue, which generates 90 percent of its total revenue.
The Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife is on countrywide Environment Minister’s annual community engagement on environment, climate and wildlife with traditional leaders and villagers. Between Wednesday and Friday last week, Environment Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu visited Bulilima, Tsholotsho and Hwange communities which are heavily affected by conflict with animals in Matabeleland North and South provinces.
Angry villagers in Mabale, Hwange under Chief Dingane-Nelukoba appealed to the Minister for the removal of Campfire because they were not deriving benefits from it.
They said they had lost herds of cattle, goats and donkeys, and crops to lions, hyenas and elephants but with no compensation despite the presence of the Campfire programme. Villagers also complained about poor reaction from the Hwange Rural District Council which manages Campfire in Hwange. They said wild animals freely roam around human settlements.
“We are not fighting anyone but we are concerned about the death of people and livestock due to wild animals. As we speak I lost seven head of cattle last week to lions and I hoped to get compensation but got nothing. Our situation is dire as we are getting poorer and poorer yet we have Campfire,” said Mrs Violet Sibanda, a village head from Songwa.
Mr Misheck Ngwenya from Ward 13 said he lost 13 cattle to lions that either hunt in cattle pens or attack in the presence of herdboys in the bush.
“Campfire has left us poor. This is a programme that was started during our parents’ time but they have nothing to show from it. We wish this can be removed. As Ward 17 we don’t want this Campfire. Let us give the animals back to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management so that people can get benefits from wildlife. As it is people are not poaching yes, but are getting no benefit at all,” said Mr Evans Shoko, a village head from Ward 17.
When Campfire was introduced, animals were allowed free movement outside national parks for communities to benefit from hunts through the Campfire programme. Another villager Mr Gorden Ngwenya said Campfire was invisible in Hwange.
“A few days ago I lost my cattle to lions while waiting for rangers to come. I called the Campfire manager who said they had no transport, I went to pick them in my car but my cattle had been killed. Losing 11 cattle in a week is not a joke. Campfire is not helping us at all and should be abolished,” said Mr Ngwenya.
Chief Dingane-Nelukoba told the minister that his subjects had approached him expressing displeasure about the Campfire programme and that it should be removed. The chief said people wanted to be empowered through a conservancy instead. Hwange rural has 20 wards and 18 of them have Campfire programme as they are adjacent to Hwange National Park. In response, Minister Ndlovu said there was a need to restore the boundary fence to keep away animals from.
“Many of you here are not happy with Campfire. We are here to hear your views, let’s be fair to other communities which we did not visit. So we have to sit as a village assembly and make that resolution that you don’t want Campfire if that is the case, so let’s give ourselves time and make these resolutions that we can then take to the President and say this is what people from Hwange want,” said the minister. In a follow-up interview he said there was a need to introspect and look at how best communities can benefit.
“We have just finished a three-day tour and today we are in Mabale in Hwange where we had frank discussions about issues affecting the entire district. It is clear that communities are facing numerous challenges, most of which relate to their livestock. It is a common phenomenon in the three districts we visited this week and in a more pronounced way today communities are indicating that the Campfire is not working for them,” he said.