"Then It's Clear Who Owns the Trees": Evaluating Privatization in the Social Forest in a Zimbabwean Resettlement Area

The value that associates private property regimes with better management of arable land played a consistent role in colonial policy and practice in "African" areas of Southern/Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). In the woodlands, however, common property management systems characterized African areas. This persisted in the post-Independence state, both in the Communal Areas, and in the newly demarcated Resettlement Areas. Recommendations by the recent Land Tenure Commission (1993), however, are set to change tenure in the woodlands in Resettlement Areas from common property to private property, on the perception that the common property system fails to sustainably manage the woodlands. In this paper, the apparent failure in common property woodland management in a case study of a Model A resettlement scheme in Zimbabwe is explored. Tenure insecurity and the types of controls and institutions in the woodlands are examined as possible sources of the failure. The major stress on the woodlands, besides clearance of land for agriculture, emerges as resource poaching by Communal Area neighbours. The currently popular notion of resource-sharing as a possible solution to this problem is discussed. In the final analysis the author finds that privatization is unlikely to solve the management crisis as it inadequately deals with the major problem of resource poaching. This failure is part of a wider conceptual problem of dealing with Zimbabwe's different land-use categories in isolation, rather than as an interrelated system. The paper is framed by an analysis of how a new focus on tenure issues, particularly privatization, in the land redistribution process in Zimbabwe fits with a growing trend wherein issues of justice and development for the rural poor are eclipsed by a discourse of "efficiency" and "productivity".

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Working or Discussion Paper
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Staff Paper 97-06

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-22

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