Topic Area: Endangered Species
Geographic Area: Zimbabwe
Focal Question: Can a change in property rights create incentives to preserve wildlife?
(1) Butler, Victoria. Is this the Way to Save Africa's Wildlife? International Wildlife, March 1995 Vol. 25 no. 2 page 38.
(2) Rihoy, Elizabeth, Washington Director of Africa Resources Trust; Statement submitted to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, July 20 1995.
(3) Rihoy, Liz (letter) Eco-Imperialism: US Tries to Force Africa to Mismanage its Wildlife. The Washington Times; July 30, 1995, Page B2.
(4) Schreuder, Cindy. Kenya's Game Plan: Find a Way to Make Wildlife Pay. The Chicago Tribune October 9, 1995 Page 1 Zone N.
(5) Swanson, Timothy and Barbier, Edward, (Editors) Economics for the Wilds: Wildlife, Diversity, and Development. Island Press, Washington DC 1992. Pages 107-118. Community Based Development in Africa by Edward Barbier.
Reviewer: Alex E. Roth, Colby College '96
In the past, efforts to conserve wildlife in Africa have emphasized creating protected areas in which hunting and development were strictly prohibited. In many countries killing of certain animals was also prohibited outside of parks. Local people were excluded from preserves, which were used for foreign tourists and little else. Meanwhile, wildlife was unwelcome on private lands.
This led to other problems. To begin with, not enough park land was available to support animal populations in the long term. This is true even though many African countries protect relatively large proportions of their total land area. Furthermore, local people paid dearly for the preservation of wildlife. Many of the animals which foreigners value highly (such as lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos etc.) are extremely dangerous to people who live near them. In addition to human casualties, crops and dwellings are damaged by wild animals in rural areas. Many of the victims live near the margin of survival and can ill afford such losses.
Historically, the indigenous people have seen few economic rewards from the region's spectacular wildlife. Much of the money from safaris has gone to companies owned by outsiders which delivered scant benefits to local residents. For these reasons, they had an incentive to kill wildlife for consumption, profit, and personal safety. Laws against poaching did little to improve the situation, especially when equipment and funds for law enforcement were limited. As a result, the population of elephants and other animals was dropping in many areas.
In 1989 an innovative program was initiated in Zimbabwe which stands out as a success among other African wildlife protection schemes. It was designed to benefit local people and wildlife by radically changing the strategy for managing natural resources. The initiative is called the Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources, or CAMPFIRE. It was originally sponsored by several different agencies in cooperation with the Zimbabwe government, including the University of Zimbabwe's Center for Applied Study, the Zimbabwe Trust, and The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). The basic idea behind the program is to allow local communities to assert greater control over the management of resources in their districts.
Under the CAMPFIRE system, villagers collectively utilize local wildlife resources on a sustainable basis. Trophy hunting by foreigners is perhaps the most important source of revenue, because hunters require few facilities and are willing to pay enormous fees to kill only a few large animals. The government sets the prices of hunting permits, as well as quotas for the number of animals which can be taken per year in each locality. Then individual communities sell the permits and contract with safari operators for the right to conduct photographic and hunting expeditions on community lands.
The associated economic gains accrue to the villages, which then decide how the revenues should be used. Sometimes the money is simply paid to households in the form of cash dividends which may amount to 20 percent or more of an average family's income. The funds can also be used for capital investments in the community, such as schools, clinics, or labor saving machines. Sometimes the money is divided between uses. In at least one area, revenues compensate citizens who have suffered property loss due to wild animals. Households may also receive non-monetary benefits, such as meat from problem animals or culled herds. Communities also gain self reliance by consistently meeting their needs from their own resources on a sustainable basis. Given all of these benefits, it is not surprising that this voluntary program has been steadily expanding since its inception, and now includes about half of Zimbabwe's 55 districts.
Often renewable uses of the ecosystems are lucrative enough to trump other uses (like raising livestock), based on purely pecuniary considerations. As a result, important habitat outside of parks is preserved, where it might otherwise be used primarily for other purposes. It is essential that such private areas be hospitable to wildlife, since isolated parks are unlikely to support healthy ecosystems in the long run.
Since local people now benefit tangibly from wildlife, illegal hunting is also slightly reduced through local anti-poaching efforts.
As a result of CAMPFIRE, poor people in Zimbabwe need not sacrifice their economic opportunities for the benefit of conservation. At the same time, a broad consensus can be reached that their extraordinary resources can and should be managed in a sustainable way.
Despite so many successful aspects, there are difficulties with the program. To begin with, many countries, including the United States, prohibit importation of trophies, hides, tusks, and other products of endangered species. Restrictions on trade in endangered species can be beneficial when applied to certain countries. However, they can also deny people income from sustainable uses of wildlife, thus discouraging wildlife protection. This can be particularly detrimental when foreign hunters are not permitted to bring their trophies home, since trophy hunting is such a disproportionately large generator of revenue.
Another limitation of CAMPFIRE is that it depends on cooperation among community members. So it may be impossible to expand the program to locations where the community structure is not as cohesive as it is in rural Zimbabwe. Other areas may also lack wildlife resources that are as spectacular as those in some of the participating districts.
Finally, wild animals still do cause serious damage to homes and property, and not all districts compensate residents for losses due to such disasters.