Our Community

Working with local communities


Our Community

Working with local communities


Gonarezhou Conservation Trust recognises the critical role played by communities adjacent to the park as supporters and custodians of biodiversity in and outside the park. We aim to empower our communities by positively engaging them as key partners in conservation and for improved social sustainability, development, and benefit of all Gonarezhou National Park stakeholders. One of our beliefs is that sustainable conservation is achievable through the support and active participation of local communities. Active participation by communities results in resource sharing and ownership, engendering pride, and developing empathy for conserving nature for future generations.

Recognizing  communities as stewards of natural resources


Gonarezhou Conservation Trust recognises communities as the stewards of natural resources. The community programme is divided into four thematic pillars which are interlinked as community engagement, cultural and historical legacy, human-wildlife conflict and resilient livelihoods.


Community Engagement
Cultural & Historical Legacy
Human & Wildlife Conflict
Resilient Livelihood
Sustainable Grass Harvesting in Gonarezhou

Our Community Pillars

Gonarezhou Conservation Trust recognises the critical role played by communities adjacent to the park in maintaining biodiversity in and outside the park. We are also cognizant that most of these communities’ livelihoods and cultures are closely dependent on the natural environment. It is therefore critical to engage and empower the local communities to protect their local environment.

Empowerment through positive engagement

Community Engagement

Community engagement is an ongoing process that provides the foundation for building and maintaining positive relationships with neighbouring communities. Our goal is to engage communities on multiple levels maintaining positive and mutually supportive relationships between the park and the adjacent communities. One of the key activities under the engagement pillar is the Mphfuka Movement. Started in 2018, “Mphfuka”, meaning “journey” in Shangaan, is a formal engagement platform that was developed as a positive, safe space for communities and the park to interact and discuss issues of both mutual benefit and concern as well as identifying possible solutions to any challenges together. Like any journey, there are ups and downs but as neighbours we have no choice but to walk the journey together, creating home-grown, collaborative solutions for our living landscape.

Under the same pillar, we also offer day trips into the park for selected members of the communities, including women, children and traditional leadership. The excursions into the park help to increase awareness and participation in local environmental issues and extend our reach to the whole community. Sporting events such as soccer tournaments, including girls’ soccer, have provided an additional important avenue for engaging with youths, empowering girls, and fostering environmental awareness and action within adjacent communities.

Partnerships, Togetherness and Collaboration

Cultural and Historical Legacy

The now Gonarezhou National Park has a rich human history which forms the backbone of our work on the cultural and historic legacy pillar which is aimed a preserving and recognising the role that humans and culture have played in shaping this landscape.

Some of the key activities under the cultural and historical legacy program include the identification and mapping of cultural sites within the park. These include shrines, ritual sites, graves, old village sites or homesteads and other sites of interest such as the infamous Shadreck’s Office and Bvekenya’s Baobab.

Conserving cultural diversity for future generations

Human and Wildlife Conflict

Human and Wildlife Conflict (HWC) is an ongoing issue impacting adjacent communities around the park.  It takes the form of destruction of crops, losses of livestock and, less frequently, damage to property and human injury or death. Similarly, HWC takes its toll on the wildlife itself through retaliatory killings, maiming, problem animal control and relocation.

Since 2017, GCT has put a strong effort into documenting HWC incidents in adjacent areas, as well as developing mitigation measures and responding to HWC incidents. Our data is key in enabling us to use appropriate methods to plan and support mitigation measures against HWC.  Our data shows that crop raiding is highly seasonal (January-June); elephants are the main problem species (c. 80% of reports).  Predation of livestock is predominantly by hyenas (c. 60% of reports), and is widespread around the park, and occurring throughout the year.   The value of this data is that it enables a shift toward a more proactive approach to HWC management, including the development of targeted mitigation measures.

Recently, GCT has partnered with the Chiredzi Rural District Council on a HWC monitoring and mitigation program called Twela. The aim of the program is to enhance our current efforts and to support the development of capacity within local government to appropriately deal with HWC issues.

Reactive and Proactive HWC monitoring

Resilient Livelihood

Over the past six years, the park has provided considerable support toward strengthening livelihoods within adjacent communities, both directly and in conjunction with partner organizations.  These interventions include:

  1. The targeted preferential employment from the local communities- 75% of the staff have been employed from the communities within a 15 km radius of the park. This local job creation complements stable household and subsistence agriculture activities, thus improving social cohesion. Moreso, capacity and skills are built as positions of responsibility are filled by community members.
  2. The park has also enabled resource sharing through providing access to and harvesting of specific resources in the park such as thatching grass and bangala plant, on a sustainable basis. The sustainable use of natural resources strives for a balance between social justice, environmental health, and economic development- maintaining the long-term use of resources while maximizing social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts.
  3. Working with partner organisations on testing, developing and facilitating the adoption of new livelihood options such as craft production, fish farming, contract chilli farming, bee-keeping and improved wood-saving fire stoves.
  4. The introduction and fostering of small-scale savings and loan groups commonly known as Community Conservation Banks (CoCoBa), microfinance initiative designed to teach community members to open small, environmentally friendly businesses. Women are now increasingly seen in leadership roles in CoCoBa, especially in the area of entrepreneurship and financial management.
  5. The development of community tourism partnerships, to support communities in becoming owners of their tourism initiatives which is conceived as an opportunity for increasing and more equitably distributing income in communities and adding value to natural areas and cultural landscapes. Through a community tourism partnership, Bosman Community Camp was developed between the Malipati Development Trust, Gonarezhou National Park, and the Chiredzi Rural District Council with support from SAT-Wild.
  6. Providing support for infrastructure development with the communities through partnering with the local authorities. So far, five projects, which are electrifying three wards, building three high schools and a clinic have been supported.
  7. enabling access to medical treatment for disabled children.
Realizing resilient and sustainable community livelihoods