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Biodiversity conservation and rural livelihoods : a comparative study of selected conservation approaches in Zimbabwe.

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Historically, protected areas have operated as islands of biodiversity conservation in isolation from nearby communities. There is, however, a growing consensus that for protected areas to be more effective in conserving biodiversity, particularly in developing countries, they must incorporate the livelihood needs of poor local communities they often share boundaries with. This is because most of these communities historically pre-date the protected areas, have pre-existing rights to resources in them and have often been adversely affected by their designation. Successful protected area management thus depends on the collaboration, involvement and support of local communities. In this context, this study examines biodiversity conservation in Zimbabwe using two case studies, a private protected area (Malilangwe) and a community-conserved area (Mahenye) in terms of their livelihood impacts on local communities. The need to incorporate livelihoods goals into conservation areas in Zimbabwe has further been necessitated by the persistent failure of conventional post-independence rural development initiatives in the country. The study employed the mixed-methods approach in data collection and analysis involving both quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative (interviews, group discussions and observation) techniques. Simple random sampling was used in selecting 150 households for questionnaire interviews from each of the two targeted communities adjacent to the conservation areas, while purposive and snowball sampling were employed in selecting key-informant interviewees. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used in analysing quantitative data, while thematic analysis was used to analyse qualitative data. The study identifies various livelihood benefits and costs from the conservation areas to the local communities. There were some similarities and differences in the livelihood impacts of the protected areas. The main livelihood benefits from the conservation areas to the communities included the enhancement of income, health and education; in addition to improved environmental sustainability. Various hindrances to the flow of the livelihood benefits were also identified. Among the livelihood costs from the conservation areas to the local communities included, inter alia, loss of land and livelihoods, destruction of crops by wildlife, devouring of livestock by wildlife and human harassment by wildlife. Such costs were further exacerbated by lack of compensation from the conservation areas. The study recommends various measures for enhancing livelihood benefits from the conservation areas to the local communities which include, inter alia, compensation to communities for livelihood costs incurred from conservation, increased community involvement in conservation decision-making and a widening of the portfolio of livelihood-enhancing initiatives by the conservation areas. The main contribution of this study to the conservation-development discourse in Zimbabwe is that it has shown that, besides the much publicised communal areas management programme for indigenous resources (CAMPFIRE), other conservation approaches such as private protected areas can achieve similar, if not better, livelihood impacts on surrounding communities. The need for policy makers to promote other conservation approaches, besides CAMPFIRE, as alternative and equally effective vehicles for attaining rural development through conservation is thus apparent.


Doctor of Philosophy in Geography and Environmental Management. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Biodiversity., Conservation., Livelihoods., Poverty., Conservation -- development initiatives.