A proto-campfire initiative in Mahenye Ward, Chipinge District: development of a wildlife utilization programme in response to community needs
Peterson Jr., J.H.
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Mahenye ward lies in the lowveld at the southeastern edge of Zimbabwe/ adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park which forms the wildlife resource base of the area. Beginning in 1982, Mahenye ward's wildlife utilization project preceded other similar projects in the country, demonstrating the possibility for communal area management of indigenous resources before Campfire became government policy. Mahenye's wildlife utilization project is unusual in the extent to which it developed without external support or technical assistance. It was essentially a local response to local needs based on local possibilities. It has attracted little attention compared with larger externally assisted and subsidized projects in Nyaminyami and Guruve Districts. The Mahenye story is much more fascinating in detail than this brief account can reflect. The author hopes he will be forgiven for the mistakes of over simplification and omission. Primarily a one ward project, the Mahenye project remains relatively informally organized and operated. It is a pre- Campfire success in a district which has only recently developed a Campfire programme and which can be followed by other wards and districts. Mahenye has influenced an interest in Campfire in adjacent wards and districts, and proven that community support for wildlife can be strong and long lasting in-spite of lack of consistent support at the district level. The major problem experienced by the Mahenye wildlife utilization programme was first gaining and now maintaining the support of the district council. Mahenye is a success story which deserves careful attention because it raises the question of whether there is room in Campfire for ward-level success stories.