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The CAMPFIRE programme in Zimbabwe: Payments for wildlife services

Frost, P.G.H., & Bond, I. 2008.
Ecological Economics 65 (4): 776-787.


Payments for environmental services (PES) have been distinguished from the more common integrated conservation and development projects on the grounds that PES are direct, more cost-effective, less complex institutionally, and therefore more likely to produce the desired results. Both kinds of schemes aim to achieve similar conservation outcomes, however, and generally function in analogous social, political and economic environments. Given the relative novelty of PES, what lessons can be learnt and applied from earlier initiatives? In this paper, we describe the evolution over the first 12 years (1989–2001) of Zimbabwe's Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE), a community-based natural resource management programme in which Rural District Councils, on behalf of communities on communal land, are granted the authority to market access to wildlife in their district to safari operators. These in turn sell hunting and photographic safaris to mostly foreign sport hunters and eco-tourists. The District Councils pay the communities a dividend according to an agreed formula. In practice, there have been some underpayments and frequent delays. During 1989–2001, CAMPFIRE generated over US$20 million of transfers to the participating communities, 89% of which came from sport hunting. The scale of benefits varied greatly across districts, wards and households. Twelve of the 37 districts with authority to market wildlife produced 97% of all CAMPFIRE revenues, reflecting the variability in wildlife resources and local institutional arrangements. The programme has been widely emulated in southern and eastern Africa. We suggest five main lessons for emerging PES schemes: community-level commercial transactions can seldom be pursued in isolation; non-differentiated payments weaken incentives; start-up costs can be high and may need to be underwritten; competitive bidding can allow service providers to hold on to rents; and schemes must be flexible and adaptive.

Keywords: CAMPFIRE, conservation, rural development, safari hunting, Zimbabwe

Note: For further information about this publications, please contact the corresponding author, Dr. Peter Frost (