The Herald (Harare)
March 4, 2003
Posted to the web March 4, 2003
SOUTHERN Africa environmentalists are calling for improved community-based
natural resources management systems to ensure communities benefit from natural
resources surrounding them.
The environmentalists made the call in South Africa
at a recent preparatory workshop for the Fifth World Parks Congress
to be held in the same country
later this year.
It was noted that communities in the region have watched helplessly
for a long time while outsiders plunder resources next to them.
participants, who also included academics, called for new models
of protected areas such as national parks to ensure that communities
benefit from such resources.
Research has already established that
as one moves closer to resource-rich protected areas, the degree
of poverty gets sharper.
This shows that communities settled around
such natural resource-rich areas are being denied benefits from
resources that are just a
stone's throw away.
While neighbouring communities do not have money
to engage in big tourism ventures, wealthy city dwellers and foreign-owned
generate millions of dollars
annually from tourism businesses they run in and around national parks.
this relationship has often resulted in a conflict between the
surrounding communities and those managing the parks, as the people
demanded a share of
the natural resources.
Ford Foundation programme officer Mr James Murombedzi
said southern African communities were alienated from the resources
they used to manage well by colonialism.
"It must take post-colonial governments to rethink on whether
to go back to pre-colonial conservation methods," said Mr
"Colonialism wanted to establish order, but environmental
historians say this actually disturbed the good management of resources
What is needed in the region is to convince
world leaders and national park managers to allow disadvantaged
communities settled next to parklands to
start deriving benefits from their rich diversity.
This is the message that
the southern African region will carry to the Fifth World Parks
Congress to agitate for a new order that will ensure rural
communities benefit from natural resources around them.
But concern was raised
on how the devolution of power and responsibility to manage benefits
from natural resources from the state and individuals
structures was to be achieved.
"The problem surrounding devolution of authority over resources
to local communities probably constitutes the single biggest problem
facing the southern African
region," said Southern Africa Sustainable Use Group chairman Mr
"Methods that work need to be put in place to ensure that
this is achieved for the benefit of all those involved."
The workshop participants recommended that to go around the problem,
local institutions and communities must be empowered by statutory instruments
that protect them if they are to have a role in conservation of natural
This will lead to new and innovative models for protected areas based
on co-management of natural resources with communities.
The other vexing
issue was on how communities will benefit from natural resources in
conservancies that are mostly viewed as private property.
are a recent development formed following the pulling together
of resources and land by freehold farmers to form large
It was noted there has already been a conflict
surrounding the issue of conservancies in Zimbabwe, with local
communities venting their
frustration by invading
the areas, demanding a share of the natural resources.
of conservancies began to emerge in Zimbabwe following efforts
by the then Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management
breeding areas for the black rhino in safe sanctuaries.
to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, there are
at least 24 conservancies on freehold land in that country covering
In South Africa, freehold conservancies were promoted
by the Natal Parks Board to facilitate water catchment conservation
groups of farmers
to monitor the impact of their land management practices on the
health of river systems.
While some participants said owners of conservancies
should not share resources with surrounding communities because
they are private properties,
said that should not be the case.
"We need new mechanisms to ensure that we avoid conflicts
in conservancies by making sure there is a partnership between
farmers and communities that is
beneficial to both sides," said Africa Resources Trust director
Dr Cecil Machena.
"Wildlife is very much of a public resource and people view
it in that way. We need clear mechanisms to ensure everyone benefits."
promotion of equity in sharing resources, whether in conservancies
or any other protected areas, was seen as the only way to ensure
there is no
between communities and those who manage such areas.
recommendation to come out of the workshop was the need for new
and innovative models of management of natural resources
These new forms of management must aim at ensuring the
sustainable use of natural resources.
The southern African region
will present some of its recommendations at the Fifth World Parks
Congress in Durban in September.
The congress, which is held after
every ten years, will be organised by The World Conservation Union.
aims at reviewing and learning from protected area gains and setbacks
of the past ten years and integrate them into the broader
The other aim will be to build a more diverse and effective constituency
for protected areas to redefine and reinforce their value and
relevance in the
The first World Parks Congress was held in Seattle,
US, in 1962, with the subsequent three taking place in Yellowstone,
1972, in Indonesia
in 1982 and in
Venezuela in 1992. The congress has become the main global forum
the status and role of protected areas in conservation and development.
next congress will come to southern Africa under the theme: "Benefits
beyond Borders" at a time the region launched the vast Great
Limpopo Transfrontier Park involving national parks in Zimbabwe,
Mozambique and South Africa.
The emphasis will be on trying to
find out how communities beyond the borders of protected areas
can benefit from the rich natural