Rosalind Duffy. Killing for Conservation: Wildlife Policy in Zimbabwe. Oxford: James Currey, 2000. xi + 209 pp. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-85255-846-1.
Reviewed by Elaine Windrich (African Studies Center, Stanford University)
Published on H-SAfrica (June, 2001)
The Politics of Wildlife in Zimbabwe
'The Politics of Wildlife in Zimbabwe'
This is an important book about an important subject and it should serve as a model for those engaged in research on other aspects of Zimbabwean politics and society. As such, it is a welcome addition to the African Issues series edited by Alex de Waal and Stephen Ellis, including in its list other volumes on resources and the environment in Africa.
Although any publication on Zimbabwe at this time is in danger of being overtaken by the momentous events that have brought this country to the brink of implosion, fortunately for this study Zimbabwe's wildlife conservation policies have not been unduly affected, except for the decline in tourism attributable to the lack of security. Nevertheless (and time permitting), a useful addition would have been a postscript pointing out that even the most well intentioned plans for resource management would come to naught so long as the forces of lawlessness (in the form of squatters, war veterans and other ZANU PF party militias) were allowed to invade and occupy land officially designated as nature conservancies for the protection of wildlife.
The framework for this study is provided by the great debate, which has reached international proportions, over the choice between "preservation", which is more concerned with protecting certain animals or resources from any use at all, and "conservation", which allows some use but ensures against exploitation or extinction. Also part of the debate is the policy option known as "sustainable development", Zimbabwe's latest "buzz-word". As the author warns, however, the lack of a precise definition or even a set of guiding principles for sustainable development "feeds into the depoliticising rhetoric of wildlife conservation as a global environmental 'good'" (p. l). While the main focus of the book is the international politics of Zimbabwe's wildlife policies, the issues raised by its controversial "wildlife utilisation" agenda are also relevant to the wider realm of global environmental politics.
The two key areas of Zimbabwe's wildlife policy that sustainable development are (1) the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, known as CAMPFIRE, and (2) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES.
CAMPFIRE has become widely known, and even lauded as the only "hope" for endangered species in Africa by New York Times journalist Raymond Bonner (At the Hand of Man: Peril and Hope for Africa's Wildlife, New York: Knopf, 1993). In Zimbabwe, it was adopted as a scheme for integrating wildlife conservation with rural development by empowering subsistence farmers to utilise the wildlife in their area to generate funds for community development. But "utilise" in this sense mainly includes selling quotas of elephants to safari operators for "trophy hunting" and reaping a portion of the profits from such hunting for the benefit of the indigenous people. Equally controversial is the position taken by the Zimbabwean government towards CITES, since government policy has been to overturn the international ban on the trading of ivory and rhino horn. Thus, with its advocacy of CAMPFIRE and its undermining of CITES, Zimbabwe has become a focus for the global debate about linking wildlife conservation with community development, and also for conceding to developing countries the right to use their natural resources to improve the lot of subsistence communities.
To answer these and other relevant questions, the author interviewed numerous officials and politicians in the National Parks Department, the Ministry Of Environment and Tourism and local and international NGOs concerned with wildlife management and conservation. Most were, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, in favour of the CAMPFIRE experiment, including the limited trade in ivory and other elephant parts accruing from trophy hunting and officially sanctioned culls. Obviously, the policy had its most vociferous opponents among the preservationists and animal rights organisations, which were completely opposed to hunting for "sporting" purposes and which deplored the killing of endangered species as a means of promoting community development. Yet other divisions arose over which government agencies--the Treasury, the Environment Ministry, the Parks Department, the District Councils, etc.--were entitled to receive and spend the revenue derived from the trophy hunting. The author is particularly good at identifying all of the actors involved in this power struggle and their respective relationships with their constituents and, above all, with their bosses in the ruling ZANU PF.
The importance of this subject cannot be over-emphasised because it impinges upon two of the most divisive issues in Zimbabwean politics--race and the land question. As the author points out, "wildlife conservation is one of the most racially controversial areas of public policy in Zimbabwe, because conservation has a tradition of being perceived as a white domain and its demands for large areas of land means it is in direct conflict with the social and political aspirations for land distribution" (p. 3l). In practice, the setting aside of land for wildlife management has been criticised by advocates of land reform as the denial of land to subsistence farmers, although much of that land is not suitable for agricultural purposes. The CAMPFIRE scheme can therefore be seen as a form of compensation for the government's failure during its twenty-one years in power to implement a comprehensive land reform programme.
Although CAMPFIRE has a large number of powerful supporters among rural development agencies, local NGOs, donors and wildlife conservationists, its reliance upon sport hunting and the ivory trade have been used by its opponents to condemn it as cruel and unethical. Also unethical is the lack of transparency in the financial aspects of the scheme. In a country where corruption prevails in such government activities as public housing, grain marketing, fuel procurement and war veteran benefits (to name only a few), it should come as no surprise to find corruption among the officialdom engaged in wildlife conservation and even among elements of the Zimbabwean National Army which supplement their incomes by poaching ivory and rhino horn.
But despite these shortcomings, as the author concludes, there is no viable alternative policy in sight:
"Wildlife preservation in Zimbabwe is ultimately self-defeating, because the state has been unable to raise the domestic political support for preservation rather than sustainable utilisation, and because the development of anti-poaching initiatives based on inducements rather than coercion has highlighted the failure of the state to provide the effective policing power necessary to make preservation work" (p. l74-75).
Not much consolation here for the jamba and the animal rights lobby.
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Elaine Windrich. Review of Duffy, Rosalind, Killing for Conservation: Wildlife Policy in Zimbabwe.
H-SAfrica, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at email@example.com.