Voices from the Past and Echoes of the Future: Management of Forest and Woodland Resources by Local Religious Institutions within the Mufurudzi Resettlement Scheme in Zimbabwe
The existing body of literature on community-based natural resource management suggests that local institutions are a mainstay, particularly for the management of plants and animals upon which communities depend for livelihood. However, evidence from the Mufurudzi resettlement scheme in Zimbabwe refutes this assertion. This paper examines the effectiveness of local religious institutions in the management of forest and woodland resources at the micro-level. In this setting, communities were “grafted;” that is, their members were arbitrarily selected for resettlement without consideration for the diversity of their cultural backgrounds or whether they were neighbors to one another prior to resettlement. Based on the analysis of the roles of these institutions, this study demonstrates that the effectiveness of the institutions is constrained by their waning legitimacy within the local community, by their geographic disjunction from the resource base, and by the impact of multiple stressors resulting from an unstable macro-economic climate. I conclude that these factors undermine the stewardship role of religious institutions and create opportunities for resource commercialization, thus in the process precipitating resource overexploitation and decline.