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CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

Preserving the future of Africa’s Wildlife for the greater enjoyment of

James Mardall


In order to understand some of the complexities with respect to development and the
preservation of wildlife in Africa, this paper draws on a number of literary references that examine
the role of Biodiversity, various forms of Community Based Natural Resource Management
(CBNRM), Eco-tourism and Non-Farming Rural Activities (NFRA) in Africa. By revisiting the
aforementioned concepts, it is intended that a clearer understanding of the costs and benefits
associated with the implementation of CBNRM and Eco-tourism in developing countries in Africa,
will become apparent to the reader.

In the historical process of Human development, much of the Earth’s inhabitable surface area
has been impacted upon; both the natural environment and living biota (including Human Beings)
have been affected wherever human beings have settled. Since the close of the 19th century,
recognition of this fact has led to a desire to conserve those areas that can still be considered as
wild or natural. In so doing however, it seems that social considerations are never entirely
separable from the implementation of programs designed to conserve the natural heritage of the
Earth, particularly in developing countries. Firstly, there is the issue of inequalities in the
development of humankind, which has a particular regional aspect (i.e. Developed countries such
as the United States (U.S.) and those countries currently represented by the European Union (E.U.)
and Developing countries such as those on the African continent). Secondly, there is the issue of
conservation or protection of the current status quo as concerns the remaining areas of wilderness
in developing countries and their corresponding fauna and flora and the corresponding impact
that this has on the local communities.

Understanding Biodiversity, who benefits and how?

Biodiversity can be broadly understood as the result of 4.6 Billion years of the interaction and
evolution of living organisms with their environment. According to Magome and Fabricius,
Biodiversity can best be understood as, “The variety and variability among living organisms and
the ecological complexes in which they occur. This variability occurs at the genetic, species and
ecosystem levels.” (Magome and Fabricius (2004), pp – 94) This is echoed by Turner (2004) who
also introduces the concept of a geographical boundary as a regional determinant of localised
biodiversity. It is important to understand that this concept of biodiversity is informed from a
cultural and situational perspective and it must be qualified that this understanding of biodiversity
is one that is conversant with an academic understanding, based on a predominately ‘western’

As alluded to by Start (2001), members of an underdeveloped community that are in an

adjacent spatial location to an area identified by conservationists as having levels of biodiversity

CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

worth conserving and protecting, perceive biodiversity in their area as a readily accessible store of
natural resources that form an important component of their diversified livelihood strategy.
According to Turner (2004), wild resources such as plants used for medicinal reasons, form the
basis of some individual’s livelihoods. Furthermore, although the use of these resources is
recognised as being against institutional laws, members of these communities consider it socially
acceptable to do so.

In addition, According to Twyman (2000), underdeveloped communities that historically resided

in close spatial proximity to biodiverse conservation areas, perceive themselves as being
marginalized when denied access to resources that have traditionally formed an integral
component of their livelihood strategies.

There is therefore some basis to the claim that underdeveloped communities that live in close
spatial proximity to biodiverse areas have a different understanding of the concept of biodiversity.
Perhaps their conceptualisation could be best understood as, the variety of natural products that
members of the community can utilise to augment a diversified livelihood strategy. After all, as
suggested by Magome and Fabricius, “It is the rural poor, in particular who benefit the most from
wild plants and animals.” (Magome and Fabricius (2004), pp – 99)

Notwithstanding the complexities involved in the understanding of the concept of biodiversity,

which appear to be situationally relevant, many of the countries in Africa are signatories to the
United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). This convention was adopted by 150 countries in
1992 at the Rio Earth Summit and establishes several goals, including:

1. The conservation of biodiversity.

2. The sustainable use of its components.
3. Integrated and cross sectoral, national strategies and action plans to further the
conservation of biological diversity.
4. Identifying and monitoring components of biodiversity that require attention.
5. Monitoring activities that are likely to negatively impact on biodiversity.
6. Maintaining and organising data related to biodiversity. (Magome and Fabricius (2004))

In order to ensure the preservation and conservation of wildlife in Africa, National Parks have
traditionally been set aside within these countries and afforded legal protection both by the
relevant countries’ institutions and by international bodies such as The World Conservation Union
(IUCN)(1991). According to Turner (2004) these protected areas are principally set aside for the
‘protection and enjoyment’ of the environmental and cultural heritage, with the view of
maintaining the biodiversity in the areas concerned. It is of interest at this juncture, to bear in
mind whom the predominant beneficiaries of the ‘enjoyment’ of these areas ought to be?

In addition to these CBD measures, to ensure the conservation and preservation of biodiversity,
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to which many African countries are also signatories,
establishes trade as the dominant international economic paradigm. The WTO is primarily
concerned with trade and tourism as far as African countries and conservation are concerned and

CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

to some degree this conflicts with the goals of the CBD, which has led to a strenuous global
debate on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIP’s), which are directly related to the
exploitation of biodiversity ( Concerns with respect to the fact that tourism
predominately leads to leakages from underdeveloped economies, have been raised by
development practitioners and are echoed in Turner’s (2004) paper on ‘Tourism, the environment
and rural development’. In this respect, there is some evidence to suggest that developed
countries will be the predominant ‘enjoyers’ of the conserved biodiversity in developing countries
(Magome and Fabricius (2004)). And that this enjoyment will take the form of nature based
tourism or eco-tourism, which will be discussed at length in a later section. These conservation
strategies have therefore; more recently sought the inclusion of the local communities concerned.
Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)

Sangorwa (1999) provides a useful list of a number of programs implemented in Tanzania and
seven other African cases such as; Lupande Development Project (LDP), Administrative Design for
Game Management Areas (ADMADE), Luangwa Integrated Rural Development Project (LIRDP),
Zambia Wetlands Project (ZWP), Wildlife Industries New Development for All (WINDFALL),
Communal Area Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) and Nazinga Wildlife
Utilisation Project (NWUP). These programs are generally referred to by most of the authors listed
in the references of this paper and a common element that unites these programs, is their
attempts to broadly adhere to the principles of a CBNRM approach.

According to Sangorwa the main thrust of CBNRM programs is to, “Create through the bottom
up, participatory approach, conditions whereby a maximum number of community members stand
to benefit from a sustainable management and utilisation of wildlife.” (Sangorwa (1999), pp –
2061) This is a sentiment echoed by Magome and Fabricius (2004), who add that CBNRM
programs attempt to manage and conserve natural resources in a way in which social equity is a
key agenda. The aforementioned programs are all therefore attempts to conserve biodiversity
within designated wildlife areas, by adopting a program that includes the participation, in
management structures, of members of the spatially adjacent (and in many cases
underdeveloped) rural communities.

Sangorwa (1999), Gibson and Marks (1995) and Magome and Fabricius (2004) are highly
critical of the CBNRM approach to conservation of wildlife, in the programs mentioned above. They
attempt to unpack the reasoning behind CBNRM, in order to effectively assess whether or not local
communities do in fact buy into and benefit from the CBNRM process of wildlife conservation and
management. They highlight how CBNRM does in fact lead to an increase in biodiversity in the
areas concerned, but that this is not a value free achievement. To more succinctly provide
justification for this fact, Sangorwa (1999) identifies two conditions which are assumed to be
critical to the success of CBNRM projects, namely:

1. Revenues from the program concerned, must defray the costs of such a program;
2. Target communities must be both committed to and interested in, the success of the

CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

With respect to these conditions and from the articles by, Sangorwa (1999), Gibson and Marks
(1995) and Magome and Fabricius (2004) a number of synthesized issues emerge with respect to
African CBNRM programs that have been reviewed, Namely:

1. Failure of councils to pass over wildlife related revenues to the greater community;
2. Not addressing basic community needs and distributing benefits unequally;
3. A Failure to adopt a bottom up participatory approach because, ‘Local participation does
not exist’;
4. Communities have little stake or interest in CBNRM and have not been granted
“Appropriate Authority” over the programs;
5. Controversy surrounding the inclusion of wildlife scouts from the community and their
6. And the high prices and poor distribution of culled wildlife to the communities concerned.

Nevertheless, CBNRM programs in Africa are considered vitally important by particularly; donor
agencies, NGO’s, researchers and taxpayers in developed countries who have a highly developed
sense of social justice and are concerned about the possibility of losing the Earth’s biodiversity
(Magome and Fabricius (2004)). Coupled to this are the reasons outlined by Sangorwa (1999), for
attempting CBNRM in Africa and encouraging participation by the local communities. According to
Sangorwa it is vital to co-opt local community support for CBNRM programs because;

1. The main threat to conservation is poaching and utilisation of natural resources by local
2. Added to this, the ‘Fences and Fines’ approach of the past conservation practices have
proved ineffective and expensive. As highlighted by a ministry quote, “the costs of
maintaining huge wildlife conservation areas far outweigh the capabilities of the
government’s meager resources.” (Sangorwa (1999), pp – 2063)
3. Also, past conservation programs failed to take into account the interests of the rural

If however, access to the natural resources, on which the local communities may be
dependant on as part of a diversified livelihood strategy, is to be reduced by CBNRM conservation
practices. Then it seems inconceivable to expect the local communities to buy into the idea of
CBNRM without providing alternate livelihood sources. In this respect, one of the vehicles for
offering an alternative livelihood strategy has been the implementation of tourism related
activities, particularly eco-tourism.

Tourism to the rescue of CBNRM (Nature Based and Eco-tourism)

The concept of Eco-tourism is the result of the combination of the terms Ecological and
Tourism. Eco-tourism advocates a more responsible form of tourism, one that is more cognisant of
the complexities related to the locality in which the tourism occurs. Definitions of Eco-tourism are
peppered with prosaic rhetoric such as; ‘integrity’, ‘respect’, ‘welfare’, ‘responsible’,
‘enlightening’, ‘host community’, ‘indigenous culture’ and ‘nature travel experience’. A summary

CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

of the requirements for eco-tourism as provided by Turner (2004) are presented as putting the
environment first while enjoying it first hand alongside the local community with full knowledge of
the local situation and without leaving a noticeable impact on the resource.

Turner (2004) identifies two predominant strands of ecotourism; one which identifies unspoiled
wilderness areas as their primary destination and a second form which is aimed at benefiting
impoverished, traditional local communities which reside in close proximity to protected areas
(cultural tourism). The idea of eco-tourism is to draw on the indigenous knowledge of the local
communities, in part in recognition of the fact that these communities have existed in a way in
which they are perceived as being close to nature. This fact is highlighted by a quote from a
member of the CAMPFIRE program in Zimbabwe, “We hear a lot about people who say the Tonga
(tribe) will exterminate wild animals; to us, this is foolish talk. How can the Tonga do that when we
have protected these animals all along?” (Sibanda (2004), pp – 252).

It is however naïve to believe that the status quo will remain the status quo as far as the
development of these communities are concerned. As well meaning as the goals and ideals of eco-
tourism are, the influx of tourists and their associated spending will and do have an affect on the
local communities concerned. Once again, as with CBNRM programs, the impacts associated with
eco-tourism are likewise not value free, as both financial and cultural value exchanges are
inevitable, between tourist and community.

As stated by Turner (2004), “… Nature based (Eco) tourism is not a magic key to rural
development. Caution and realism must be our guiding principles…” (Turner (2004), pp – 375). Put
bluntly, the idea that tourism offers a solution to social development is dammed if it does and
dammed if it doesn’t. If development doesn’t occur, then the local community deems the program
a failure and if development does occur, then the sense of place attached to the idea of an
indigenous experience will have been lost, as the community begins to acquire the accoutrements
of a developed country.

Rural communities are not however without their own means to structure a livelihood from a
number of diverse and non related sources, including natural resources, agriculture, remittances
and so on. These activities form the basis of a way of life that has come to be thought of as the
informal economy in South Africa and can often have linkages that are exceptionally diverse and
generally poorly accounted for during the implementation of CBNRM programs and eco or nature
based tourism.

Other Non-Farming Rural Activities

Start examines the rural non-farm economy in depth in order to formulate opinions and
alternatives to ad to the debate on rural development. He suggests that 40-45% of the average
household incomes in rural Sub-Saharan Africa can be attributed to non-farming sources that
occur within the geographical locality of the actual community. Start identifies three broad factors
for the reasons why such a community (of what could be understood in essence as peasants)
would have a diversified livelihood strategy;

CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

1. The economies of scope (Barrett, Reardon &Webb (2001)) of a diversified livelihood are a
strong mitigation against the impacts of either a single risky activity or uncertainty related
to the unknowns (such as drought, floods, social disaster etc);
2. In response to and in anticipation of, the cyclical nature of the economy and the
intermittent nature of incomes that are commonly expected by unskilled/temporary/part
time/low wage workers.
3. The complementarities of certain forms of livelihood may induce community members to
pursue similar or mutually beneficial activities that augment one another (for example
maize grinding and milling, hide tanning and leatherwork, foraging and craftwork etc).
(Start (2001))

According to Turner (2004) and drawing on the work by Gibson and Marks (1995), the value
associated with the natural resources that are available to rural peasant community members,
accrue to them in either one or a combination of three ways;

1. The direct financial value that occurs as a result of a monetary transaction for natural
resources (such as the sale of bush meat, fuelwood, medicine plants, craft work, crops,
livestock or foraged foodstuffs).
2. The indirect value derived from the natural environmental functions that add natural value
to the available natural resources (such as wetlands that attenuate and purify water for
drinking, or the availability of a naturally functioning ecosystem resources).
3. The intangible value of the environment that contributes to community culture, the sense
of place and religious functioning of the community.

In addition to the values associated with the natural resources, there are traditional values that
are and have been in the past, an established part of the way of life for communities that exist
near a conservation area. According to Twyman (2000) in her research done in the Kalahari,
“Traditionally, hunting and gathering have played an important social and economic role…”
(Twyman (2000), pp – 793). To illustrate the difference that restrictions can produce in terms of
accessing these traditional natural resources, Twyman uses the following quote extracted from a
group discussion held in the area of her study, “If you want to pick berries you have to take a
permit, if you want to cut down a tree you have to take a permit, if you want to dig out a plant you
have to take a permit but the lord doesn’t say this.”

According to Barrett, Reardon &Webb (2001), the first challenge to designing a strategy to
enhance livelihood strategies for the rural poor is to ensure that a sense of ownership over the
strategy is conferred to the rural poor themselves. The second challenge is to facilitate the
formation of an economic environment that is conducive to self or micro financing for
impoverished households. The third challenge is to ensure that households are nutritionally self
sufficient to remain healthy. The fourth challenge is to improve market access through an
improved infrastructure and marketing strategy. They are critical of the fact that outside agencies
such as donor agencies and NGO’s seem to shoulder the burden of responsibility for community

CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

programs, while at the same time not building local capacity to do so and suggest that this is not
an effective long term strategy or solution.

Furthermore Gibson and Marks (1995) who examine the hunting practices of poor rural
communities that are adjacent to conservation areas using game theory. Highlight the fact that
even when using local community members as scouts or game guards, an inevitable amount of
hunting/poaching will result as individuals make tradeoffs that are directly related to their
livelihood strategies. This does not mean that the levels of hunting/poaching detract from the
biodiversity of the area. But it does mean that a complete exclusion of community members from
areas that traditionally formed part of a diversified livelihood catchment area, seem to provide an
untenable solution to the local community. By using members of the local community to augment
a conservation program that to all intents and purposes is not administered by the local
community, a sense of ownership of these resources and a desire to conserve them is not
automatically endowed to the local community.


The arguments relating to conservation practices and the social issues that are integral to
them, highlight the fact that there are particular perspectives that are related to the perceptions
of the agencies and implementers on one hand and the poor rural communities on the other. The
poor rural communities seem mostly interested in the Socio-Economic benefits of CBNRM and the
impacts these programs will have on their access to a natural resource based diversified livelihood
strategy. In this respect, the net benefits of conservation programming and CBNRM in their
present form do not favour poor rural communities. As a result community-poaching practices
have not been curtailed, even though limited access to these resources were offered as an
alternative. Community farms and livestock were negatively affected by an increased amount of
wildlife and community management processes were perceived as, undemocratic, ineffective,
political and toothless and were not generally supported by the community majority.

In short, community members seem to be left with a perception that ‘outsiders’ valued wildlife
more than they valued the local communities. The results of the various attempts at CBNRM seem
to suffer from a similar limiting condition, in that total ownership of wildlife is not given to the
community. As a result, CBNRM programs are predominately determined by the opinions of donor
agencies, NGO’s, Researchers, and Tax Payers in Developed countries. These efforts have in many
cases disempowered poor local communities from their role as part of the traditional natural
resource cycle. It would be advisable to concede more weight to their moral and ethical rights in
this regard and apply a greater degree of latitude with regard to the self-determination of such
communities; after all, the reason why these areas exist is in no small part due to their efforts as


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CBNRM, Biodiversity, Eco-Tourism, Farming with Wildlife and other Non-Farming Rural Activities

Gibson, C. & Marks, S. ‘Transforming Rural Hunters into Conservationists: An Assessment of

Community Based Wildlife Management Programmes in Africa’. World Development, Vol. 23,
No. 6, June 1995.

Magome, H. & Fabricius, C. ‘Reconciling Biodiversity Conservation with Rural Development: The
Holy Grail of CBNRM?’ Fabricius, C. & Koch, E. (eds). Rights Resources and Rural
Development: Community Based Natural Resource Management in Southern Africa. London:
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Sangorwa, A.N. ‘Community Based Wildlife Management (CWM) in Tanzania: are the communities
interested?’ World Development. Vol. 27, No. 12, December 1999.

Sibanda, B. “Community Wildlife Management in Zimbabwe: The Case of CAMPFIRE in the

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Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Southern Africa. London: Earthscan,

Start, D. The rise and fall of the Rural Non-Farm Economy: Poverty Impacts and Policy Options’.
Development Policy Review. Vol. 19, No. 4, 2001.

Turner, S. ‘Tourism, the Environment and Rural Development’. Coetzee, J. Graaff, J. Hendricks, F. &
Wood, G. (eds). Rights Resources and Rural Development: Community Based Natural
Resources Management in Southern Africa. London: Earthscan, 2004.

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