Zimbabwe's Decentralised Natural Resource Management Programme: Evolution and Resilience in the face of Adversity or a Vindication Case of CBNRM in Crisis?

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"Decentralisation should ideally result in democratic transfer of effective powers and control from the state to elected local level authorities. Where this occurs, it enables resources users to actively participate in decision-making and hold accountable those to whom decentralised powers have been transformed. This paper describes and analyses the politics and practice of decentralisation in Chizvirizvi, a resettlement area in Chiredzi district in Zimbabwe's South Eastern Lowveld. It investigates the relationships between different institutions and how this influences land use, resource access and practice. The transfer of power to local level institutions has resulted in challenges in its actual appropriation. Using empirical evidence drawn from district level processes, decentralisation is not likely to result in thoroughgoing empowerment even where it is demand-driven. Evidence can be adduced to show that this shift has led to highly questionable institutional arrangements at local level. Chizvirizvi is unique because this is the first community in Zimbabwe to be granted appropriate authority to manage wildlife. This case represents attempts by government at empowering locals but this has led to changes in power relationships between traditional institutions and the powerful political institutions. This resulted in conflicts between the various actors as weak institutions are marginalized and rendered invisible. At times, this shift shows resistance and resilience of communities in the face of change but it could also be interpreted as a crisis where communities feel they have lost control over their livelihoods. Where community collective interests are threatened, the powerful actors make adjustments, compromise and form networks and alliances aimed at fulfilling individual or collective interests. It is not the interest of these representative institutions to build alliances with poor and marginalized users who would have demanded such powers. Strategies to empower the marginalized rural poor often simply invert such relationships. There are internal differentiations that seem to thwart a sense of collective community interest. This policy shift has weakened local traditional leadership as powerful committee members engage in client patron relationships with powerful members outside the area further marginalizing the plot owners in the scheme. Stakeholder groups usually emerge from different socio-economic and political backgrounds; with varying levels of power and they view interventions and the resource from their own perspectives to further their own interests. The paper argues that devolving powers to local institutions spawn conflicts as new responsibilities and opportunities arise as these are saturated in power struggles. External actors should be conflict mediators to challenge local despotism in an institutional landscape marred by politics. "
IASC, CBRM, resilience, environmental policy, decentralization, decision making, community, poverty alleviation, stakeholders, indigenous institutions, institutions