Communal rangeland management policies in Botswana and Zimbabwe are based on incorrect technical assumptions about the stability of semiarid rangeland, the nature of rangeland degradation, and the benefits of destocking. Consequently, inappropriate policies, stressing the need to destock and stabilise the rangelands, are pursued. Acknowledgement of the great instability but intrinsic resilience of rangeland would encourage the Governments to more favourably regard the opportunistic stocking strategies of the agro-pastoralists of the Communal Areas. However, degradation of rangelands is occurring, although at varying rates. This justifies the promotion of a ‘tracking strategy’, in which livestock densities are encouraged to follow, more closely that at present, variations in rainfall.
The establishment of grazing territories controlled by specific ‘communities’ may be a prerequisite for the promotion of the tracking strategy, and for communal rangeland management and improvement. However, the establishment of such territories must take into account social equity, institutional problems and transaction costs, as well as spatial and temporal variation in rangeland resources.