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Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet

Today is the World Wildlife Day which is also running concurrently with the 2021 Africa Environment Day/ Wangari Mathaai Day. The Wildlife Day is being celebrated under the theme Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.”  The day puts on the spotlight the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystem services in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally. As we commemorate the day, we must take time to reflect on the importance of a comprehensive legal and policy framework as an instrument towards the realisation of sustainable utilisation and management of natural resources.

The recognition of the forestry sector as an important economic hub in Zimbabwe should also see the country taking a Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) approach in the preservation of this ecosystem. Forest land provides valuable protection of watersheds and wildlife habitat and assists in preventing soil degradation and erosion. However, over the years, the sector has been confronted by a multiplicity of challenges that have affected its ability to fulfil its potential in economic development and provision of environmental services. The challenges that have resulted in forestry depletion include deforestation, illegal settlements, veldfires and mining activities.

In the wildlife sector we highlight that lack of transparency and accountability has resulted in serious economic, environmental, social and security costs. Corruption, poaching, Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT), Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) are some of the challenges facing the sector. Therefore, in view of these challenges, we note that strengthening of the Forest Amendment Bill and the reform of the Parks and Wildlife Act is key in charting a way forward for wildlife and the environment in Zimbabwe.

To that end, the ongoing reforms in the Forest sector should build on the principles of SFM which include participation by interested and affected stakeholders in the policy and decision-making processes, access to information and accountability.

During a policy dialogue targeted at members of Parliament from the Committee on Environment and Wildlife management, Parliament Secretariat, Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission, and the media convened by ZELA in 2020 the following gaps and shortcomings were identified in the Forest Amendment Bill:

  • Whilst the Bill enhances the protection of forests from veld fires, emphasis should be put on sustainable forest management for present and future generations.
  • The Bill must emphasize and set rules for compensation resulting from the loss and or damage to property-through setting compensation tribunal or structure to handle such matters.
  • Stakeholder involvement and engagement to forest protection is critical but rules of engagement should be emphasized.

On the aspect of Wildlife management in Zimbabwe, theParks and Wildlife Act must be reformed through the development of a new and comprehensive Parks and Wildlife Act that is anchored on the principles of sustainable wildlife management.

Building Sustainable Livelihoods and Economic Development 

An important position in the Parks and Wildlife Act relates to the restriction of consumptive activities in protected areas. In a bid to promote and ensure the realisation of these objectives, ZimParks and Appropriate Authorities such as Rural District Councils (RDCs) have been promoting consumptive and non-consumptive tourism. The hunting and removal of any animal or part of an animal or sale of animals are prohibited within the Parks and Wildlife Estate except with an appropriate permit. It has been noted that 64% of the total income earned by RDCs involved in the CAMPFIRE programme emanates from elephant hunting, therefore, showing that protection of this special biodiversity resource has the potential to equally bring about socio-economic benefits.

In the past two decades, ZELA has noted that communities form the first line of defence against wildlife crime. The important role that local communities play in combating illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is increasingly being recognized as a key component in effective anti-poaching strategies. However, there is little guidance on how to effectively engage them in practice.

Taking stock of ZELA’s contribution to wildlife management

  • ZELA teamed up with CIRAD, the National Authority (Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry) and local district institutions inimplementing the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme. The SWM Programme is an African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) initiative, which is being funded by the European Union with co-funding from the French Global Environment Facility. It is implemented at pilot level in the following countries – Congo, DRC, Gabon, Guyana, Madagascar, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  In Zimbabwe, the pilot site is Mucheni Community Wildlife Conservancy in Binga RDC. The Programme is developing innovative, collaborative, and scalable new models to conserve wildlife and improve food security and livelihoods. The results from the SWM Programme will be adapted and developed both within each pilot country and in other ACP countries. ZELA is responsible for (i) compilation of all relevant policy documents and texts of laws and regulations in areas applicable to the sustainable exploitation of wildlife species, including inland fishes, (ii) analysis and understanding of the opportunities and extent to which customary law is recognised in the statutory legal framework of the country.
  • Promoting anti-poaching and compatible land use in community lands in Mbire RDC. This  Project involved: (i)  setting institutions (development of fisher constitutions, training in aquatic ecology and fisheries management, training in business development, mentoring in business management, promoting collaboration between fishers and the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and ZRP and other key stakeholders) to promote: – the sustainable use of the fisheries in the Lower Zambezi River;  monitoring and reporting on illegal wildlife trade (IWT); and improved livelihoods and (ii) revitalising the Community Wildlife Conservancy in Ward Four.
  • Providing legal advice and technical support to Binga and RDC in developing Local Environmental Action Plans (LEAPs) and drafting by-laws focused on building the transformative capacity of communities and access to wildlife, fisheries and forestry resources.
  • Providing legal advice and technical support to Mbire RDC in drafting by-laws focused on building the transformative capacity of communities and access to wildlife, fisheries and forestry resources.
  • Facilitating consultations on the development of a Human Wildlife Conflict Policy and Review of the National Parks and Wildlife Act under the auspices of the GEF 6 Project being implemented by the Department of National Parks.

What the Government of Zimbabwe needs to do in as far as wildlife management is concerned:

  • Review the Parks and Wildlife Act by prescribing the principles, values and objectives of the legislation which must then be used to inform all actions and decisions undertaken by authorities in terms of the Act.
  • Address the relationship between the Parks and Wildlife Act and other legislation in a manner that clearly gives this Act primacy over all other legislation.
  • Establish a clear legislative and institutional framework that is based on the need for Environmental Impact Assessments prior to development in protected areas such as mining, which can potentially have a bearing on the preservation and protection of the nation’s biodiversity.
  • Delineate and clarify the roles, responsibilities, and business activities of ZimParks in a manner that enhances their obligation to ensure biodiversity protection from mining developments in the areas they manage.
  • Review mining laws and regulations, particularly, the Mines and Minerals Act, to ban, control or restrict activities such as prospecting and exploration of minerals in protected areas. 
  • Create a framework for stakeholder consultation and public participation that ensures inclusivity in decision-making processes; and
  • Properly demarcate and declassify areas within national parks for purposes of better protecting biodiversity in these areas.

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Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

“Environmental justice through sustainable and equitable utilisation of natural resources and environmental protection”

For Further Information, Please Contact:

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

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