Twenty-two men and women pose for a photo in front of a USAID banner.

Charting the future of Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE programme

By Liberty Chauke

Zimbabwe’s Community Areas Management Program For Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) programme was the first of its kind in southern Africa, whereby people living with wildlife became beneficiaries of the sustainable use of wildlife in their areas. 

In accordance with Zimbabwean policies, RDCs have been granted Appropriate Authority status, which allows them to generate income from wildlife within specific areas known as CAMPFIRE blocks. This income is used primarily for infrastructural development projects (e.g. schools, clinics, electricity and water services) that benefit the communities living in those blocks. 

While the CAMPFIRE programme has funded many development projects and thus improved the quality of life for rural communities in Zimbabwe, it has faced a number of challenges. Trophy import bans imposed by other countries on Zimbabwe has reduced the level of benefits delivered to the communities, whilst human-wildlife conflict has increased the cost of living with wildlife. In some areas poor governance has exacerbated these challenges, resulting in many communities demanding that the CAMPFIRE programme be restructured and revitalised.

To this end, a delegation of people involved with CAMPFIRE were sent to Namibia on a look and learn tour to find out how community institutions known as conservancies manage their wildlife and income in that country. In the Namibian model, the communities generate income directly from wildlife and decide on their own benefits, while the government authority plays a more regulatory role. 

Having visited Namibia, six communities in Zimbabwe have already established conservancies and others are considering this move. To further discuss how this new system could work in Zimbabwe, officials from the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks), RDCs and community representatives from Mbire, Chiredzi, Bikita, Nyaminyami, Chipinge, Hurungwe and Muzarabani attended a workshop in Chiredzi on 11-13 March 2024. 

The workshop, facilitated by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and Resilience Anchors, provided a platform those who travelled to Namibia to share their insights from their trip with others. These insights sparked lively discussions about the way forward for CAMPFIRE based on many years of experience in Zimbabwe and the new ideas generated from the look and learn tour. 

All stakeholders recognised that CAMPFIRE has played an important role, as one attendee stated: “we should not think about challenges only, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that the CAMPFIRE programme has been a model and a vehicle of community development that has brought a number of community development projects in communities.” 

Nonetheless, this 40-year-old programme is due for a fresh start with new ideas. In particular, the Appropriate Authority status currently held by RDCs can be devolved to the lower level to community conservancies in a similar way to Namibia. The workshop attendees thus discussed ways to strengthen capacity and community governance issues in order to create “Community Corporate Entities” that would handle the income generated at the local community level, thus taking on the rights and responsibilities that are currently held by RDCs.

One of the potential hurdles to this new plan is the perceived lack of capacity at the local community level. Community representatives nonetheless feel that they are ready to take on these new responsibilities since they have many years of experience as part of the CAMPFIRE programme. While some government representatives are cautious about granting these new community institutions full Appropriate Authority status, the communities want to take the plunge as soon as possible.

Five men sitting at a conference table.

One community representative summed up their stance: “Appropriate Authority status should not be conditional [based on perceived community capacity]. It’s like telling an individual that I will give you a car when you can prove that you are able to drive. Firstly, give the person the keys and let them prove that they can or cannot drive.”  

The workshop ended on a high note with plans to establish stakeholder engagement platforms along with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to continuously review performance and progress. Other plans are in the pipeline to strengthen governance systems and promote active community participation in wildlife conservation. While it may take a few more years to fully revitalise the CAMPFIRE programme, everyone at the workshop agreed that we are on the right path and made fresh commitments to work together to achieve our shared goals.

Front page of the advert featuring the summary and CLN logo.

We are hiring an Executive Director

The Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa (CLN) is a registered voluntary association, with its Secretariat based in Namibia. It is a regional network of indigenous peoples and local communities that promotes the rights, well-being, and sustainable development of indigenous communities in Southern Africa. 

CLN is managed by an Executive committee comprising participating national associations and runs a lean secretariat. An opportunity has arisen to employ an Executive Director on a 12-months renewable contract basis.

The Executive Director will work under the direct supervision of the CLN Executive Committee through the chairperson of the Network. The officer holder will also work directly with the national focal persons, and national network and member associations to the network. The main task of the ED is to ensure that CLN’s mandate to empower the national networks and their constituent members is achieved. He will play a key role in providing administrative and strategic leadership, fundraising, stakeholder engagement, and partnership building and provide policy support and guidance to the Executive Committee. He/She will also be responsible for facilitating and arranging meetings of the committee, including planning and reporting on the activities regularly to the committee, affiliate members, and other stakeholders.



Holder of a Master’s degree in Natural resources management, Development Economics, CBNRM, Agriculture and other Social Science DisciplineHolder of PhD in Natural Resources Management, Development Economics, CBNRM, agriculture and other social science discipline will have a greater advantage.

Work Experience:

Over 10 years of experience having worked in at least 3-5 SADC states supporting effective implementation of Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM).Experience in working with and establishment of national and regional networks.Experience in National, regional, and global advocacy, and fair understanding of the working of global treaties such as CBD, CITES, IUCN APAC, etc.

Language Proficiency:

Fluency in written and spoken English. A working knowledge of Portuguese and French would be an advantage.

Download full job description and how to apply by clicking here.

A woman stands facing the camera amongst her soya crops near Kasungu, Malawi.

Using soybeans to improve livelihoods and promote biodiversity conservation around Kasungu National Park, Malawi.

Communities living around Kasungu National Park in Malawi traditionally grow maize to feed their families and a few other cash crops to generate income. High poverty levels and declining soil fertility have driven some community members into the neighbouring park to clear more land, hunt wildlife or harvest wood illegally to make ends meet. Kasungu Wildlife Conservation and Community Development Association (KAWICCODA) have started a transformative project with support from the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme to help change this situation using soybeans.

Soybeans are a cash crop that naturally fix nitrogen in the soil and thus improve soil fertility whilst simultaneously providing a steady income for cash-strapped households. This initiative, which includes promoting soybean farming among other activities, aims to strike a harmonious balance between biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development. This project targets local communities living within 5 km of the buffer zone around Kasungu National Park. 

More than 300 farming families benefited from this project by obtaining 40 kg of soybean seeds each, which are expected to yield an average of 500 kg per field. As a sustainability measure, each beneficiary will give 110 kg back to the project after the first harvest, thus allowing more families to benefit during the next round of distribution.

As the project unfolded, a group of enthusiastic beneficiaries – primarily farmers in the two traditional authorities of Chisinga and Kaphaizi – embarked on a journey of change and empowerment. Through intensive training sessions organised by KAWICCODA, these community members gained valuable insights into sustainable soybean farming practices. The training covered a variety of topics including soil management, crop rotation, pest control, and efficient water usage. 

Armed with newfound knowledge, the beneficiaries eagerly embraced the challenge of incorporating sustainable agricultural techniques into their daily practices. 40-year old Josephine Mwandira of Group Village Headman Chimombo under Mpepa Cooperative excitedly reported that, “having access to extension services will only improve my knowledge and ultimately improve the yield I expect to get from the 40 kg of soybean seeds I have benefited from the BIOPAMA project.” 

The BIOPAMA project is tracking and measuring the impact of these interventions on both the environment and the lives of the local communities as part of its monitoring and evaluation framework. Regular assessments will be conducted to gauge the improvement in soil health, the reduction of deforestation, and overall ecological resilience in the buffer zones.

As the soybean crop is expected to flourish due to the hard work of farmers tangible benefits are expected to unfold. The soybean cultivation not only provides a diversified and sustainable source of income for the beneficiaries but also contributes to the conservation goals of BIOPAMA by reducing the pressure on natural resources within the buffer zones.

The monitoring and evaluation team will also measure the economic status of the participating communities, which is expected to improve substantially. Income generated from soybean sales will empower families to meet their basic needs, invest in education, and improve healthcare. Reduced poverty levels should reduce these households’ reliance on illegal activities that could harm the biodiversity of Kasungu National Park.

Moreover, the project has facilitated increased cooperation among farmers living in this area. Farmers will use the Mpepa and Chengwe Cooperatives to share knowledge, pool resources, and collectively market their soybean produce. This collaborative approach will not only strengthen community bonds but also enhance the overall resilience of the local agricultural system.

At the start of this new era of soybean cultivation and farmer cooperation, we are confident that the communities around Kasungu National Park will be transformed into thriving examples of sustainable coexistence between people and nature. The soybean project, under the watchful eye of BIOPAMA and implemented by the dedicated KAWICCODA team, has become a beacon of hope, illustrating how careful planning, community involvement, and effective monitoring can lead to a future where biodiversity conservation and human prosperity walk hand in hand.

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Luengue-Luiana National Park in Angola is part of the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) that covers parts of five African countries (Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe). This Park covers 22,610 km², and is patrolled by government rangers and 27 community game guards trained by ACADIR-Angola. This national park is not exclusively for animals, however, as 49,300 people currently live within its boundaries. In line with the other KAZA TFCA countries, Angola wants to develop a wildlife economy that will support people and wildlife living in this landscape. 

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Community conservation efforts in Southern Africa started in the 1980s and have since taken slightly different paths towards including rural communities in the wildlife economy and nature conservation. Over the years there have been some exchange visits and other events to increase communication among the community conservation stakeholders in these countries, but such opportunities remain rare. 

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Message from Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa on the Passing of Charles Jonga

It is with heavy hearts and deep sorrow that we note the passing of CLN Vice Chairperson Comrade Charles Jonga.


Charles was an icon, a legend and exemplary leader for community conservation. Comrade Jonga was not just a pillar for CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe but an inspiration to young conservation leaders across Southern Africa.

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As the Chairperson of Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa, I participated in the recent 22nd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held in New York, USA. It was a real eye opener for me, as I started to appreciate the challenges, abuse and human rights infringements that over 6.7 million indigenous peoples around the world have had to endure. 

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Improving Governance of Community Wildlife Management Areas in a key Wildlife Corridor in Tanzania

Community Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Tanzania are lands designated for wildlife conservation and managed by rural communities. Every five years, the villages associated with particular WMAs elect leaders to run their Community-Based Organisation (CBO) that is recognised by government as an Authorised Association mandated to manage their WMAs. Well-managed WMAs should achieve the twin goals of wildlife conservation and generating socio-economic benefits for community members.

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