Cadastral Politics: The Making of Community-Based Resource Management in Zimbabwe and Mozambique



Projects promoting community-based management of natural resources frequently encourage local smallholders to share flora, fauna, or land forms with state agencies and/or private companies. Ideals of common property and moral economy have inspired this agenda and helped spread it globally. In Southern Africa, however, the general model of shared landscapes has collided with a bitter history of white colonization and land grabbing. This article recounts the rise and fall of one CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) project in eastern Zimbabwe. There, cadastral politics — struggles over the bounding and control of land — overwhelmed negotiations for joint management and eco-tourism. Across the border, in Mozambique, community-based resource management has engaged with cadastral politics in a more fruitful fashion. In the midst of latter-day Afrikaner colonization, this project mapped smallholders’ claims to land. Thus, the Zimbabwean project ignored territorial conflict and ultimately succumbed to it. The Mozambican project jumped into the fray, with some success. On past or current settler frontiers, community-based management may learn from this lesson: dispense with an ideology of sharing and join the rough-and-tumble of cadastral politics.