More than Just Story Telling: A Review of Biodiversity Conservation and Utilisation from Precolonial to Postcolonial Zimbabwe

  • Chigonda T
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Access to natural resources has changed over the years in Zimbabwe. At least three broad periods of biodiversity conservation, utilisation, and access can be identified in the country, namely, the precolonial, colonial, and postindependence periods. This paper reviews the relationships between human livelihoods and biodiversity conservation in the rural areas of Zimbabwe during these periods and is informed by an extensive review of the relevant literature. A combination of historical narrative, thematic, and content analysis was used in analysing the various documents into meaningful information addressing the objective of the study. Traditional societies in precolonial Zimbabwe had access to abundant natural resources. However, access to these resources was not uncontrolled, but was limited by traditional beliefs, taboos, and customs enforced through community leadership structures. The advent of colonialism in the late 19th century dispossessed indigenous African communities of natural resources through command-type conservation legislation. At independence in 1980, the new majority government sought to redress the natural resource ownership imbalances created during colonialism, culminating in some significant measure of devolution in natural resource management to local communities in the late 1980s, though such devolution has been criticised for being incomplete. An accelerated land reform exercise since the year 2000 has adversely affected biodiversity conservation activities in the country, including the conservation-related livelihood benefits derived from protected areas. The review paper highlights the need for a more complete devolution of natural resource ownership and management down to the grassroots levels in the communal areas, if social and ecological sustainability is to be fully realised in these areas. On the other hand, the disruption of conservation activities in the country due to the ill-planned accelerated land reform exercise that has demarcated land for arable farming in some of the protected areas should be held in check as a matter of urgency.




Chigonda, T. (2018). More than Just Story Telling: A Review of Biodiversity Conservation and Utilisation from Precolonial to Postcolonial Zimbabwe. Scientifica, 2018, 1–11.

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