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Lessons from the conservation sector's response to a crisis environment in Zimbabwe

  • Mxolisi Sibanda (a1)

Here I examine how conservation organizations responded to a crisis environment in Zimbabwe. Since c. 2000 Zimbabwe has gone through a political, social and economic crisis that has led to reduced support for, and in some cases disengagement by, international and regional conservation organizations. I explore five response types on a continuum of disengagement and propose lessons for wider conservation practice. The lessons include the need to recognize that political discourse often excludes biodiversity conservation and therefore any conservation decisions based on political expediency run the risk of impeding conservation progress. Progress in conserving biodiversity requires sustained investment regardless of changing political circumstances. Such investment should include support for institutional development, local engagement, and accountability that engenders ownership of local conservation initiatives. I conclude that conservation organizations must take a long-term view of conservation and commitment to enhance conservation outcomes. This kind of engagement must be adaptive instead of based on a wait-and-see attitude or other forms of disengagement, as has been seen in Zimbabwe. Conservation organizations that disengage do so at the risk of further loss of biodiversity in some of the most biodiverse but unstable places.

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