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Why are lions killing us? Human–wildlife conflict and social discontent in Mbire District, northern Zimbabwe*

  • Steven Matema (a1) and Jens A. Andersson (a2)


An emerging perspective on Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in Zimbabwe is that increased authoritarianism in governance has enabled elite capture of wildlife resources and silenced local people's voices. This paper qualifies this perspective, showing how ordinary people continue to raise their concerns about local governance. In the Mbire district, people's interpretations of an upsurge in lion attacks on livestock and people in early 2010 took on a dimension of social commentary on the evolving governance arrangements in the district and beyond. Beneath an apparent human–wildlife conflict lie complex human–human conflicts about access to, and governance of, wildlife resources. Interpretations of the lion attacks built on two distinct epistemologies – a local religious discourse on spirit lions and an ecological one – but invariably construed outsiders as the ones accountable for local problems. This construction of outsiders is also a salient feature of Zimbabwean political discourse. Local voices thus constitute a widely understood discourse of protest.


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This research was funded by the International Research and Education Fund (INREF) of Wageningen University in the Netherlands through the Competing Claims on Natural Resources Programme in collaboration with the Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Zimbabwe. We thank Ken Giller for helpful comments on an earlier manuscript, Edwin Chimusimbe for fieldwork assistance, Brian Mhonda for preparing the map and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the paper. A previous version of this paper was presented by the first author at the INREF Conference, Wageningen, April 2012.



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Why are lions killing us? Human–wildlife conflict and social discontent in Mbire District, northern Zimbabwe*

  • Steven Matema (a1) and Jens A. Andersson (a2)


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