Wildlife management and land reform in Southeastern Zimbabwe: a compatible pairing or a contradiction in terms?

Abstract

This paper examines the melding of two discourses in southeastern Zimbabwe: land reform and wildlife management. The former seeks to redistribute large, ‘underutilised’ landholdings to smallholders whilst the latter needs extensive land holdings (even by the standards of commercial agriculture) to be viable. These two discourses are rooted in very different models of development. The land reform exercise emphasises direct redistribution, equity and land for crops; whilst the wildlife management discourse tends to stress maximising foreign exchange earnings, encouraging public-private partnerships and trickle down. Yet there has been a recent flurry of interest by government ministries, non-governmental organisations and the private sector in the development of ‘wildlife models’ for land reform which would combine the two. This paper investigates whether the competing discourses about land for smallholders and wildlife-based land reform are compatible or can be successfully reconciled. It traces the ways they have come together in Zimbabwe’s southeast lowveld and examines the ‘science’ and politics underlying their melding. Finally it explores the potential implications for rural people’s livelihoods of this development. It concludes that land reform and wildlife management can be reconciled, but probably not in a particularly equitable way: it is more likely to provide an opening for an equitable land reform agenda to be usurped by local and non-local elites with wildlife interests.

Citation

Wolmer, W.; Chaumba, J.; Scoones, I. Wildlife management and land reform in Southeastern Zimbabwe: a compatible pairing or a contradiction in terms? Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK (2003) 24 pp. [Sustainable Livelihoods in Southern Africa Research Paper 1]

Wildlife management and land reform in Southeastern Zimbabwe: a compatible pairing or a contradiction in terms?

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