Zimbabwe: Landuse in Dry Tropical Savannas
Policy and institutional framework for sustainable resource management
Agenda 21 recognizes the involvement of various institutions in promoting sustainable resource management. The report specifically identifies the following groups: i) women; ii) children and youth; iii) indiginous peoples; iv) partnerships with NGOs; v) local authorities; vi) business and industry; and vii) scientists and researchers. Each of these groups represent specific types of institutions which are currently involved in resource management. Clearly resource management is not a responsibility of one individual or institution.
Generally, the policy and institutional framework for sustainable resource management has been characterized as being highly restrictive, detracting from efforts to promote sustainable management2. In many countries in Africa, Zimbabwe in particular, most of the existing policy and institutional frameworks are carried over wholesale into the post independence period and need to be reviewed and amended to reflect and respond to current and topical issues arising out of the environmental debate, for example, issues arising out of the Bruntland Report, Agenda 21, the Earth Council and many others pertinent to the environment. There have been some policy and legal changes to the existing framework, but these have been described as cosmetic, and not sufficient to make existing policies, institutions and legislation facilitate sustainable development. In fact it has been suggested that the existing policy and institutional framework has one or more of the following effects on resource management: i) promotes degradation of resources4; ii) does not provide incentives for people to manage resources sustainably; iii) creates conditions that increase differences between groups within and between communities5.
Because of these concerns, various policy reviews have begun to promote i) devolution of state control over resources to local communities; ii) co-management arrangements between the private land holders (state, individuals , commercial farmers, mines) with local communities6. Integrating multiple interests of the different stakeholders in such co-management scenarios is not an easy task as goals and priorities differ7.
Existing institutions and sustainable development
The importance of policy and the institutional framework in promoting sustainable development should not be understated8. The debate about the institutions concerns the type of institution best suited to promote sustainability. There are different schools of thought on this, the first arguing that the state is the overall manager or guardian of resources and should develop mechanisms to ensure that resources are managed sustainably. take responsibility for or pay for the costs associated with resource management. But the capacity of the state in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular, has been drastically reduced leaving a gap in resource management as state organizations withdraw their services from certain sectors of the environment and the grassroots9.
Arising out of the concern that state institutions are weak and therefore incapable of managing resources sustainably, is the second school of thought which suggests that there is no need for the state to take responsibility for resource management as local institutions (traditional) already exist which are experienced and have been managing resources sustainably for many years10. However, this school of thought concedes that expecting these traditional institutions to promote sustainable management in their weakened state would be unrealistic and therefore there is need to strengthen and empower them before the responsibility is shifted from the state 11.
NGOs and Donors also play an important role in promoting sustainability. For so many years, these institutions sought to replace incapacitated state institutions, but have now found that they can meaningfully promote sustainable development if they act as the link between the state and local communities12. The ultimate resource managers are the local communities who use resources on a daily basis.
The policy and legal framework for sustainable resource management should be considered for different scales, i.e.