Matobo Resource Assessment Project (MRAP)

A survey of ecosystem goods utilised and available and the state of the ecosystem in nine administrative Wards in the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site in southern Zimbabwe was carried out between August and November 2014.Data were collected in each Ward via a two-day facilitated workshop with community representatives, followed by a three-day rapid assessment of natural resources.

Workshop attendance and participation was good in all Wards, enabling the collation of a large amount of qualitative and quantitative baseline information. A wide range of ecosystem goods were utilised by local communities for medicinal and traditional purposes, food and domestic use, livestock production, construction and income generation. Many beneficial ecosystem goods, such as thatching grass, woody plants and medicinal flora and fauna, were reported to be declining and harvest levels were high. Communities expressed concern about human-wildlife conflicts, particularly with crop-raiding animals and livestock predators. Environmental degradation was identified in some areas, with siltation of water bodies and invasion of rangelands and croplands by invasive weeds such as Lantana camara raised as priorities for conservation efforts.

Communities utilised resources available locally (in community areas) as well as those from nearby protected areas (e.g. the Rhodes Matopos National Park) and distant localities elsewhere in Zimbabwe. Some resources that had been used in the past were reported to be locally extinct, and communities were concerned by the erosion of cultural values and rejection of indigenous knowledge systems that safeguard resources in their areas.

Suggested priority actions generated from workshops and rapid assessments included improvement of water resources and water quality, eradication of Lantana camara, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict and rehabilitation of grazing rangelands.

It is intended that the results from this survey and a series of follow-up workshops with communities will assist stakeholders to develop and implement locally-relevant, sustainable and culturally-sensitive projects to improve the functioning of the ecosystem and the quality of life of the inhabitants of the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site.