The government has refined its wild-life land policy to ensure villagers around the Save Conservancy in Masvingo Province benefit from the natural resources, Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere has said.
Kasukuwere told Senate last Thursday that instead of parceling out land to individuals, the government now wanted to involve communities in the management of wildlife.
The government had parceled out the vast Save Conservancy to top Zanu PF officials and security chiefs, who went on a poaching spree that threatened the wildlife conservation area.
“We had challenges in that part of the country, I am sure she (Masvingo senator Otilia Maluleke) is also asking with specific regards to the Save valley conservancy area, where we had given 25-year leases to individual farmers, about 37 farmers or a consortium of 37,” Kasukuwere said.
“We have since reviewed that and we have embraced a broad- based model which will now see this land coming under ownership; land of the State that is National Parks and for the benefit of the communities, what we call the Campfire model.”
He said the new model would ensure communities in Chiredzi, Bikita, Zaka and Mwenezi benefit from wildlife resources in the area.
“We have changed the strategy or let alone the wildlife reform policy in those specific areas to try as much as possible to encompass or embrace more than just a narrow-based ownership model,” he said. It is going to benefit more than just individual farmers who were allocated the land.
“It is now going to see more and more communities benefiting.
“Secondly, there will be a tender system that will allow us to select operators in the Save valley conservancies and other areas which are also affected.”
The initial beneficiaries of the parceling out of Save Conservancy have been resisting government plans to push them out.
Meanwhile, Kasukuwere says the “deterent” sentences imposed on people linked to killing of over 100 elephants at the Hwange National Park through the use of cyanide last year would help curb corruption.
“You recall that we lost about 110 elephants through cyanide poisoning in the Hwange National Park near Tsholotsho area,” he said in response to a question from Beitbridge senator Tambudzani Mohadi on what the government was doing to curb rampant poaching.
“We are pleased to inform the Senate that we were able and with the support of the ZRP and our parks department, to apprehend most of the people who were behind this,” Kasukuwere said.
“The judiciary swiftly sentenced most of the poachers to no less than 14 years in prison as well as restitution.
“They are going to be paying to the extent of $20 000 per each slaughtered animal.
“This has sent a very strong message, a deterrent to would-be poachers.
“We are also stepping up efforts as a ministry and parks in particular, to enhance surveillance and ability to secure parks estates across the country.”
He said the government had been sharing intelligence with countries such as Botswana and South Africa on the movement of poachers.
“Generally, we are on top of the situation and we hope and trust that our communities who are now going to be benefiting from this exercise as well, will find it in their interest to report and become part and parcel of the security arrangement, to ensure that poachers are dealt with swiftly,” he said.
In the wake of the Hwange poaching scandal, the government was accused of only targeting poor villagers while the powerful syndicates behind the crime were left untouched.