The Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is a Zimbabwean community-based natural resource management program. It is one of the first programs to consider wildlife as renewable natural resources, while addressing the allocation of its ownership to indigenous peoples in and around conservation protected areas.
CAMPFIRE was initiated in 1989 by the Zimbabwean government as a program to support community-led development and sustainable use of natural resources. The 1975 Parks and Wildlife Act set the legal basis for CAMPFIRE by allowing communities and private landowners to use wildlife on their land, marking a substantial shift from colonial policy that made it illegal for local populations to utilize wildlife in any way.
Population pressures in Zimbabwe have led to people living in communal lands, much of which is arid and unsuitable for agricultural farming. CAMPFIRE would allow individuals to earn income on these communal lands through sustainable use of the environment and wildlife. CAMPFIRE is managed through Rural District Councils (RDCs) who distribute contracts for safari hunting and tourism and allocate revenue to local wards. Poaching was to be suppressed by the people in these hunting areas. While some endangered animals were killed, the program aimed at supporting these populations in the long run by managing hunting, decreasing illegal poaching, and strengthening the economic prospects of the community through environmental protection and revenue generation.
The US federal government has supported CAMPFIRE, principally through the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID. CAMPFIRE received $7.6 million initially and $20.5 million in 1994 from USAID. USAID did not renew its funding once their commitment ended in 2000.
Economic and Development Contribution to Zimbabwe
Between 1989 and 2004, the program raised about US$30 million, which was channeled back into the communities. CAMPFIRE’s impact on national income is at least US$10 million annually. If the multiplier on tourism activities is included, CAMPFIRE is worth US$20-25 million to Zimbabwe’s economic income each year. Periodic contributions have also come from USAID, FAO, Safari Club International Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation.
CAMPFIRE contributes to job creation, empowerment, and diversification of livelihoods for rural communities. Some communities benefit from infrastructure such as clinics, schools, grinding mills, boreholes and roads.
US Ivory Import Suspension
The US brings the highest number of sport hunters to Zimbabwe. In 2001, these constituted 61% for all land categories. American clients generally constitute 76% of hunters in CAMPFIRE areas for all animals hunted each year. The US suspension of ivory imports from Zimbabwe in 2014 has had a significant impact on CAMPFIRE, and resulted in the following:
- The cancellation of 108 out of 189 (57%) elephant hunts in all major districts initially booked by US citizens resulted in the reduction of CAMPFIRE income from $2.2M in 2013 to 1.7M in 2014.
- The $45,000 2014 SCI Tag Auction of one bull elephant that has directly supported CAMPFIRE annually since 2012 was disrupted when a US client bought the tag at the auction in February, but later demanded a refund in April 2014 when the suspension was announced.