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Cadastral Politics: The Making of Community Forestry in Mozambique and Zimbabwe

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Hughes, David McDermott
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1508
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
community forestry--case studies
property rights
conflict
ethnography
Abstract: "High hopes have obscured thorny problems in community forestry. This paper addresses a deep-seated source of conflict in Zimbabwe's approach to community forestry: shared landscapes-- the idea that communities, states, and private companies would want to or be capable of making joint decisions with regard to forests and other natural resources. This optimistic notion springs from common property theory and Thompsonian ideals of moral economy. These models may have led Southern African policy-makers astray. "The region is a cauldron for land-grabbing and resource theft, precisely the opposite of moral economy and sharing. In Zimbabwe, in particular, such struggles pervade political life. In the 1890s, white settlers alienated the bulk of the fertile plateau and mountainous regions between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers. They established the Rhodesian cadaster, a map of property that reflected the injustice and violence of conquest and has changed little since. Today, smallholders fight among each other over access to land, and, at another level, the state, corporations, and the leaders of smallholder communities still contest the division and demarcation of territory. Economic ambition and historical grievances are denominated in hectares. In short, Zimbabwe's rural politics are cadastral. How can such a nation of evictees, squatters, and land barons, among whom exclusion is the governing principle, share a landscape? "Does community-based resource management stand a chance under these inhospitable conditions? It may stand a chance and particularly if it can learn from efforts across the border, in Mozambique. There, cadastral politics and community forestry are coming of age simultaneously. Currently, whites--largely Afrikaners from South Africa--are seeking land in Mozambique. They wish to invest in timber, sport-hunting and eco-tourism. Due to a loose concession system, many have grabbed land. Indeed, in the mid-1990s, it appeared as if Rhodesia-style homesteaders would roll over this frontier. "Yet, a Mozambican variant of community forestry--devised in reaction to land-grabbing--may have helped stop them in their tracks. The approach is simple: establish the inalienable rights of local people to their land prior to any efforts to share the landscape. This type of 'community mapping' seeks to create a cadaster, but one that protects and enfranchises smallholder farmers. Whereas community forestry in Zimbabwe locks smallholders into a state of dispossession, the policy in Mozambique, at least in some places, seeks above all to prevent dispossession. This paper will compare a community forestry project in Mozambique with its twin, 30 km away, just inside eastern Zimbabwe (in fact, a CAMPFIRE project). The ethnography provides clues for a new approach to forestry policy-- one that would take cadastral politics seriously and perhaps try to influence them."

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