Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Situating Zimbabwe’s Natural Resource Governance Systems in History

Alois Mandondo
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2000
Pages: 23
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    This paper reviews natural resource governance in Zimbabwe’s peasant sector from colonial to post-colonial times, with special emphasis on woodland resources. Although the review focuses on woodlands in the Zimbabwean peasant sector, it could not necessarily be restricted to that sector alone since woodland governance is intricately linked with other components of social and ecological systems in which it operates. Governance is considered within the framework of power, process and practice and how these have shaped access, control and use of natural resources. The framework recognises that although people or structures may wield power, the exercise of such power is...

  2. (pp. 2-4)

    A huge body of literature has accumulated on what exactly the central state should entrust among aspects of the governance of forest resources (Conyers 1990, de Valk 1990, Wekwete 1990, Murombedzi 1991, Mutizwa-Mangiza 1991, Mamdani 1996, 1999, Makumbe 1998, Ribot 1999a 1999b, Schroeder 1999). Meinzen-Dick and Knox (1999) have attempted a distinction of what could be transferred from states to other actors in their peripheries using a property rights approach similar to the one developed by Ostrom and Schlager (1996). They show that states can give up some of the following sets of rights over resources: access - rights to...

  3. (pp. 4-5)

    Decentralisation enjoys broadest moral and ethical appeal in Africa, and elsewhere, where states were imposed from the outside on the basis of conquest and subjugation (Wekwete 1990, Hesseling 1996, Marcussen 1996). Having been founded on the basis of conquest, colonial rule was subsequently consolidated on the basis of expropriation of power and resources (land, labour, capital e.g. cattle, taxes) from customary systems to emerging state/capitalist forms (Wekwete 1990). Colonial rule further secured itself by inserting itself into many facets of the lives of the conquered communities resulting in the over-centralised states that were to be inherited by post-colonial governments. States...

  4. (pp. 5-7)

    Colonial administrations often justified indirect rule in terms not unlike those advocating decentralisation today: respect for local cultures; fiscal accountability; and giving people a voice in their own governance. Indirect rule, however, was very much about extending the power of the central state. Interpreting the lessons from this era helps clarify the shortcomings of today’s decentralisation policies.

    Instead of dismissing African cultures offhand, architects of colonial rule sought to understand and permeate such cultures in order to discipline the Africans into the project of colonial administration (Mutizwa-Mangiza 1985). People manning the frontlines of colonial administration in African areas were expected...

  5. (pp. 7-10)

    Both the neglect of the African sector in the overpopulated reserves and the expansion of agriculture and mining in the European sector entailed changes in landuse and related changes in the state of the environment. A settler colonial mindset framed on experiences with environmental crises within and beyond⁹ the empire interpreted the environmental changes with considerable alarm. Conservationist concern justified state intervention and inspired the beginning of centralised forms of environmental regulation, especially for native areas. Over the years state visions of appropriate management of resources have been extended to peasant communities through a top-down structure and process (Scoones and...

  6. (pp. 10-14)

    The post-independence government reconstituted over 200 colonial African councils into 55 district councils, each an apex of a local governance structure that encompassed peasant communities. Local government reform was largely inspired by the need to create a framework for expanded delivery of services to the peasant communities to redress the imbalances of colonial neglect (Helmsing 1991). The Prime Minister’s directive of 1984 further outlined the structure through which peasant communities at sub-district level fitted into the district local governance framework. The directives created VIDCOs and WADCOs, units based on popular representation and envisaging a democratic orientation to the process of...

  7. (pp. 14-15)

    The foregoing analyses show that despite rhetoric implying decentralised structures and arrangements such decentralisation can have very little to do with democratisation of forest management. For instance, indirect rule was about extending the power of the central state, although it was justified in terms not unlike those advocating decentralisation today: respect of local cultures, fiscal accountability and giving people a voice in their own governance. The quest to extend the power of the central state led to over-centralisation of power and control over natural resources in peasant areas. Local government reform in post-colonial period neither genuinely decentralised nor democratised resource...