This thesis examines the effect of deforestation on strategies of
woodland use and management in Zimbabwe's communal areas. It looks
historically at the influences on forest and land use policy and the
assumptions and ideologies on which interventions have been founded.
The local impact of these policies is analysed through a case study of
woodland response to disturbance, the changing role of trees in local
livelihoods and modification of tree tenure and usufruct.
Forestry in colonial Zimbabwe was much more than a series of value-free
technical decisions; for much of its early history it was constrained
by the interests of mining capital. Afforestation with exotics was
initially part and parcel of a broader inodernisation ideology. The
'woodfuel crisis' was subsequently used to justify the same
afforestation policies. Ceritralised institutions and the authority of
science have contributed to the devaluation of local understandings and
the underappreciation of the dynamism of use strategies. Planning has
persistently been based on misunderstandings of savanna ecology and the
way it is used.
Land use policy in the 1920s and 1930s established the basic layout of
the study area and had a lasting and detrimental effect on woodland
cover. The institutional isolation of forestry has persisted such that
land use policy and its effects are rarely considered a forestry
In contrast with state interventions, local strategies for coping with
environmental change can be highly effective in resource conservation.
Flany changes in resource use, however, are rooted not in physical
scarcity but in broader political, economic, and lifestyle changes, and
in a desire for modernity. State agents have an increased role in
determining woodland usufruct in the study area. There has been a
decline in the authority of spirit guardianship of woodlands and an
increase in the use of privatised resources.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.