Cablegate: Land Reform Threatens Wildlife

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Land Reform Threatens Wildlife

Ref: Harare 579

1. (SBU) Summary: After a decade of rescuing endangered
species, Save (pronounced SA-vay) Valley now weighs its
own extinction. Robert Mugabe's land redistribution has
gradually spilled into this conservancy, Africa's largest
private wildlife reserve. The conservancy would be an
important component of a viable Transfrontier Park
(linking Zimbabwe with Mozambique and South Africa). In
the hands of small-scale farmers or operators uncommitted
to sustainable hunting, however, this unique Zimbabwean
experiment in eco-management is unlikely to survive. End

Model of Sustainable Conservation Tourism
2. (SBU) Econoff visited Save Valley on April 16, meeting
with Manager Clive Stockil and multiple owners/managers.
The conservancy encompasses 3,420 square kilometers in
southeastern Zimbabwe. Created in 1992, Save Valley has
been resoundingly successful in reintroducing wildlife on
former cattle land. The conservancy now has the largest
population of black rhino in the country and wild dog in
southern Africa - both endangered species. Save Valley
has bred elephants to abundance and supplies them to
reserves in neighboring countries. Fourteen separate
property owners - including an American couple - have
established a constitution and administration for the
conservancy. (There are also German, Italian and South
African owners.)

3. (SBU) The GOZ has already redistributed land to small-
scale farmers in southern portion Save Valley, encircling
the U.S.-owned property, Hammond Ranch. An internal GOZ
paper goes further, recommending nationalization for Save
Valley and all other private conservancies (ref). The
GOZ has listed, then delisted, Hammond Ranch for
acquisition on several occasions. Along Hammond's
borders but still within Save Valley, we observed few
crops surrounding the huts of the many small-scale (A1)
farmers. Instead, most settlers appear to be poaching
wildlife, including endangered species, while surviving
on donor food.

4. (SBU) The economic consequences of a GOZ expropriation
of Save Valley are significant, since the conservancy -
through Malilangwe Reserve and Gonarezhou National Park -
links Zimbabwe with Mozambique and South Africa in the
ambitious but unrealized (on the Zimbabwean side)
Transfrontier Park. Zimbabwe's tourist sector, whose
revenue has tumbled from US$140 to 44 million since 1999,
probably holds the country's most rapid rebound
potential. If the Save Valley area were nationalized,
consequences for conservation and future investment are
also likely to be negative.

A Top-Down Indigenization Plan
5. (SBU) Save Valley Manager Stockil claims to have
negotiated a deal with Special Affairs Minister John
Nkomo for an alternate means of integrating black owners.
The conservancy would incorporate and include black-owned
firm Traditions as a minority partner. The GOZ could
make Traditions a majority partner by ceding to the firm
unproductive land from surrounding areas. The fourteen
Save Valley owners would retain their properties but a
diminished stake of the incorporated conservancy. The
GOZ would agree to remove - and no longer resettle - A1
farmers in Save Valley.

6. (SBU) For its part, the GOZ could take credit for a
successful indigenization model that can be applied to
country's other conservancies. This may someday
facilitate a quicker economic recovery. The GOZ's
redistribution of farmland has already knocked 75 percent
of the productivity out of a once robust agrarian sector.
More levelheaded GOZ officials - possibly Nkomo - may
have second thoughts about using the same formula for
safari areas.

7. (SBU) When pressed, Save Valley owners admit it's
tough to bet on this Government taking the rational
course on a highly-charged land matter. They are
negotiating with Traditions because they have no better
option. Nkomo himself pitched Traditions to them as a
potential business partner, causing Save Valley owners to
wonder whether the aging minister has a personal stake.
Such shared ownership is obviously preferable to
pulverization of the conservancy (i.e., redistribution to
small-scale farmers for maize and cattle production - and
poaching). On the other hand, the owners worry that
Traditions Chairman Charles Mugari, a retired army
colonel, wants to boost revenues and grant more hunting
permits. Hunting is Save Valley's most profitable
activity, but the present owners do not believe it will
be sustainable if permitted more liberally. Owners could
realize unprecedented profits for several years by
allowing unrestrained hunting, but would likely destroy
the conservancy in the process. Still, if the non-
hunting safari tourists ever return to Zimbabwe, the
conservancy could sustainably increase the number of
available beds at lodges from 300 to 1,000. But that, in
all probability, would require ever-elusive progress on
the political and human rights front.


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