Land reform mitigating human-wildlife conflict

By Tichaona Kurewa

THE wildlife-based land reform programme has transformed lives in Matabeleland North province with close to 100 households having been resettled at Woodlands Farm near Victoria Falls.

While a lot has been said about the Agrarian reform programme in terms of addressing colonial land ownership imbalances, not much has been said about the wildlife-based land reform programme which has transformed lives in communities around national parks.

With 13 percent of Zimbabwe’s total land surface area occupied by game and nature reserves, the survival of communities around these areas is a priority.

It is a matter of striking a balance between human survival and wildlife conservation efforts.

The big question being how these communities can benefit from hunting dividends.

And, you do not have to go very far for examples with the Woodlands community near Victoria Falls being a case in point after 89 households benefited from a well-planned government initiative.  

“When hunting takes place, we have a quota which we were given by government, the dividends come straight into the community’s account and to date we have managed to drill boreholes, construct roads and fire guards,” said Noah Zulu a villager.

“We used to stay in Victoria Falls but we have abandoned urban life for farm life. Life is better here, from hunting proceeds, we have managed to buy building material for our houses and fowl runs. We also bought cattle,” said Mrs Mzamba.

“With the money from hunting, we managed to buy cattle, bought a scotch cart and pay school fees for our children,” said a villager.

Hunting proceeds have also benefited schools with authorities and learners grateful for the support.

“The farm house was used as a classroom but to date we have managed to build the classroom block,” Tetrex Tshuma Masuwe Primary, School Development Committee Chairperson.

“Our teacher used to stay faraway, but with the new teacher’s cottage, they are now staying at the school, are also getting stationery and there is now water at the school,” said one of the students at the school.

“They assisted us with drilling boreholes, construction of classroom blocks and teachers’ cottages,” said Masuwe Primary School Headmistress, Tsitsi Mwadzingeni.

The programme has not come without challenges with Covid-19 having affected the community after hunting was put on hold for almost two years.

“We were resettled here in 2001 and to date we have installed solar powered water systems here. We used to have diesel water pumps but now we have shifted to solar,” saidEllias Mzamba Woodlands Safaris Chairperson.

However, that is all in the past. The future looks bright as alluded to by Matetsi Ward One Councilor, Vulindlela Mhlanga Gasela who happy about the transformative nature of the programme.

“So far the farm management is done by hunting money we have 6 schools in the ward that are under construction through hunting money. We are working on modernizing our water points to solar powered across the ward. We are celebrating a new 75hp tractor that we bought last week through hunting,” he said.

The Government of Zimbabwe embarked on the land reform programme at the turn of the millennium to address land imbalances and in the process transforming lives as citizens are now active participants in the country’s development agenda.