Community-based wildlife conservation has become popular with both policymakers and development practitioners alike as a vehicle for rural development in Southern Africa. A significant proportion of wildlife in the region is a common pool resource (CPR) and is managed under community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) arrangements. However, it faces serious challenges as a CPR despite CBNRM. The utilization and management of wildlife resources under joint use arrangements has proved to be a daunting task due to increased human pressure, global market trend and institutional failure thereby resulting in loss of wildlife and biodiversity.
The predictions of neoclassical economics and Hardin (1968) resulted in blanket recommendations to all environmental problems in the form of either privatization or a leviathan. Neoclassical theory argued that communities lack incentives and the ability to self-organize, and hence the need for external cohesive force. Despite these predictions, recent evidence revealed that users of many (but not all) resources have invested in designing and implementing costly governance systems to increase the likelihood of sustaining social-ecological systems. However, there is still little consensus about the ability of communities to self-organize. It is argued in this study that good institutions facilitate the ability to self-organize. We also make a crucial assumption that institutions affect success of biodiversity outcomes but through ability to self-organize.
It is against this background that this study seek to i) explore the conditions under which users of common pool wildlife self-organize in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and ii) identify the core attributes of resource units, resource users and local institutions that are associated with sustainable wildlife conservation. Using primary data collected from local communities around the Kruger National Park in South Africa and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, this study will contribute towards policy and to the body of knowledge by collecting data on a little studied area and applying Ostrom’s framework for analyzing complex social-ecological systems (SESs). Ostrom’s framework for analyzing complex SESs has been used extensively in areas such as forestry, fisheries, pastures and water resources while little has been done in the wildlife sector and specifically in Southern Africa. The study will help to shed light on the processes explaining complex SESs while providing comparable results to other studies or on-going EDF projects. Finally, the study will provide policymakers & development practitioners with empirically grounded evidence which will allow them to interrogate their wildlife management strategies and policies.