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Witness Kozanayi


Dr Witness Kozanayi is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, under the Bio-Economy National Research Fund Chair. His key areas of interest are governance of natural resources in communal areas in southern Africa, with a bias towards the contribution of local knowledge. His work has largely been on understanding the use and management of communally owned natural resources and non-timber forest products as an alternative land use option to dry land crop production in arid parts of Zimbabwe. He also researches on agro ecology as an alternative way to industrial agriculture and a way to harmonise the nature-man nexus. Outside academia, he has worked on several donor-funded agricultural and rural development projects in Zimbabwe. He holds a PhD in environmental and geographical science (University of Cape Town, South Africa), MSc in environmental management for business (Cranfield University, UK) and BSc Agriculture management (Zimbabwe) and a National Diploma in Agriculture (Zimbabwe).


Traversing the overcrowded institutional landscape: customary practices as a policy option for resource governance in Zimbabwe.

Customary practices and rules have prevailed over the governance of forest resources in communal areas of Zimbabwe for many generations. Customary practices have also been influential as the de facto form of governance for perceived “low value” natural resources that the state cannot reach due to budgetary constraints. Yet, local level resource sharing arrangements have not typically been considered as a central component of governance despite the fact that natural resources in Africa are typically found in common property regimes where access is ordinarily regulated using customary practices. Using the bricolage scholarship, this study engages with the gamut of strategies used by local people in circumventing inhibiting/prohibitive statutory systems of governance in ways that ensure sustainable resource use and equitable sharing of resources.

Using the case study of a baobab tree, whose fruits are highly commercialised as a superfruit in emergent markets mainly in the West, this study interrogates the interface between customary and statutory forms of governance in regulating access to natural resources in communal areas. Such interactions include phases of collaboration and conflicting which render access to the various baobab products a complex and continuous negotiated process.

A key conclusion from the study is that local people have agency and are infinitely resourceful to deal with any threats to their livelihoods and natural resources. A gamut of local level resource sharing arrangements exits, and these are not usually recognised in literature and policy pronouncements. Consequently, oftentimes state sanctioned environmental policies override these rich but subtle local level resource use arrangements, resulting in unabated resource degradation in communal areas.  To that end, there is a need to fully understand the cocktail of local level resource sharing arrangements within the context of the hidden values of natural resources to local people and state-traditional authority power dynamics.  Such an understanding informs how local people can be engaged in contemporary resource governance systems that infuse both customary and statutory forms of governance.