The Zimbabwe Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) forum was constituted in April 2005 with the goal of promoting sharing of CBNRM skills and knowledge and providing direction, cohesion and consolidation of national CBNRM policy and practice. The forum is made up of various organizations working in the area of environmental management. This forum brings with it a pool of specialists to share information on sustainable management of natural resources. The Forum is currently going through a consolidation phase whose objectives are: (i) Institutional strengthening of national CBNRM forums and regional CBNRM forum; (ii) Consolidating best practice & capacity building in core CBNRM processes; (iii) Performance monitoring, evaluation & dissemination; (iv) Policy development & implementation; (v) Concluding support to selected existing partner training institutions; and (vi) Programme management and coordination. This activity - Developing a National Community Based Tourism Enterprises (CBTEs) Strategy, relates to the Objectives (ii) and (iv) namely institutional strengthening and policy development of the CBNRM Forum strategic plan. The activity is divided into two phases. The first phase was designed as a study of the current status of the CBTEs in Zimbabwe. The second phase is informed by the first phase, and it was designed to develop a national strategy for CBTES which will then form the basis for further action. This report is an output of the first phase. For this activity the Forum, through the CBTE working group, agreed to support Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s efforts to promote CBTEs in Zimbabwe. As such this activity will be implemented in collaboration with the ZTA. The strategy will form the basis for streamlining Government approach to supporting Community Based Tourism Enterprises (CBTEs). It will also form the basis for the development of appropriate programmes for the community based tourism enterprises.
Background to CBTEs in Zimbabwe
Community Based Tourism Enterprise (CBTE) is a recognized sector in Zimbabwe. It is specifically acknowledged for its socio-economic and ecological importance to the development of Tourism in Zimbabwe. Firstly, CBTEs are a strong source of competitiveness for the tourism sector as they offer a range of diverse products and services notable of which is the arts and culture, the tradition, the natural landscapes and host services in rural villages. Community Based Tourism (CBT) certainly adds value the traditional attractions and services offered by the mainstream players in Tourism. Secondly, CBTEs are important because they provide an opportunity for the tourism sector to achieve pro-poor and sustainability objectives. CBT reaches out to marginalized communities who can participate directly through developing and managing tourism enterprises or benefit indirectly through the economic activities stimulated when visitors come through their areas.
Thirdly community based tourism presents an avenue for achieving environmental conservation and sustainable use of natural resources objectives. This is especially so in iconic landscapes occurring in
communal areas and strategic wildlife areas. These landscapes and resources therein would otherwise be threatened in the absence of community based tourism. Fourth, community based tourism can contribute towards preservation of Zimbabwe’s culture through cultural tourism. Most of Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage has been preserved by local communities. Zimbabwe boasts of high cultural diversity exhibited through the history, lifestyles and iconic infrastructure of many of its tribes name Ndebele, Shona, Tonga, Venda, Shangaan, Ndau and Karanga to mention a few. Tourism development stimulates preservation of cultural sites resulting in the conservation of the natural landscapes in which they occur. The initiation and growth of community based tourism sector was realized between the period 1990-2000, most of them supported by the CAMPFIRE programme. To date there are close to 33 known CBTEs in Zimbabwe, 10% of which are operating consumptive tourism ventures such as hunting. The most notable developments in CBTEs were associated with major tourism nodes and in areas close to wildlife and protected areas. Some of these areas include Vic Falls and Hwange areas, Zambezi Valley - associated with the upper and lower Zambezi Wildlife Areas; the South Eastern Lowveldt – associated with the Gonarezhou National Park both in the north and south; Matabeleland – associated with the widely renowned unique Ndebele culture and the Matobo world heritage site; Mashonaland – associated with unique landscapes and rock outcrops; Chimanimani – associated with the highlands and protected areas; and in Nyanga area – associated with the Nyanga National Park unique landscapes and fishing experience of the cold streams. Many other community based tourism developments are isolated across the country where communities or entrepreneurial individuals have invested in small enterprises. With renewed effort to re-establish its economy Zimbabwe has identified tourism as an important sector for its turn around. There is growing emphasis by many sector players on Tourism revival as a result, with a number of new financing, product packaging and marketing partnership opportunities being explored. These present opportunities for the CBTEs. Like many other business initiatives, the Tourism Sector has not been spared from the last 10 or more years of the economic problems Zimbabwe experienced. Community based tourism has not been visible in the last 10 years. Whilst mainstream industry players have been investing in refurbishing, rebranding and marketing in line with the new market trends, there has been limited or no focus on the Community Based Tourism Sector, despite its acknowledged importance. In addition to the new opportunities presented for communities to revive the subsector, the environment sector is also seeking new ways to green the economy in response to global warming concerns. Community based tourism, or ecotourism is one avenue through which the Sector can achieve green economy objectives. Its potential in contributing to environmental conservation has already been proven, hence its revival strategy is important. One of the main objectives of the CBNRM Forum, through the CBE working group is to address the challenges faced by CBEs through supporting their growth and access to markets.