Can local communities afford full control over wildlife conservation? The case of CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe.
Wildlife is widely becoming an important vehicle for rural development in most third-world countries across the globe. Policymakers are usually not informed about the needs and wants of poor rural households and roll out programmes that are not tailor made to suit their desires, which often result in policy failure. We use a survey-based choice experiment in this paper to investigate household preferences for various attributes of a wildlife management scheme. The survey was administered in CAMPFIRE communities around the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. Respondents showed great willingness to move from the status quo to a regime that gives them full control over wildlife. Thus, our results speak to increased devolution of wildlife management from the rural district councils into the hands of sub-district producer communities. The WTP for the new regime is more than twice the WTP for the old regime. Furthermore, our results support the idea that government programmes and development projects should not be imposed on local communities, but should be informed by programme beneficiaries through research in order to capture their needs and wants. Finally, our results demonstrate that poachers and those who are generally good in extracting resources from the environment will oppose change.