Conflicts over access and control of natural resources in Africa has eroded social cohesion and transformed local communities into zones of lawlessness and impunity. A case in point was the discovery of alluvial diamonds in Zimbabwe (Chiadzwa) in 2007.The scramble for the precious stone was marred by gross human rights abuses, smuggling, extortion and harassment of local villagers in the Marange area.
As a way of reducing natural resource conficts and ensuring that local communities are prepared to deal with conflicts stemming from natural resources, Lupane Youth for Development between May and June 2020,trained 187 local peace actors on conflict mapping, analysis and advocacy skills for inclusive natural resource utilisation. The objectives of the training were to raise awareness on natural resource governance, equip peace actors with conflict mediation skills and help them identify issues that they can lobby and advocate for. One topical issue that came out prominently during the trainings was the unfair distribution of revenue from timber from Lupane District by the authorities. Participants noted that besides Lupane District being endowed with natural resources, local communities were sidelined and were not beneficiaries to this resource. Participants also bemoaned the lack of quality social services as some schools and clinics in the area were failing to provide quality services. Participants also noted that Timber companies have contributed immensely to poor road infrastructure as in some cases trucks ferrying the timber leave roads damaged and in a poor state. Participants noted that owing to a poor road infrastrure, the district has remained underdeveloped.
As part of advocacy work, Lupane Youth for Development engaged Kusile Rural District Council to address issues raised by local communities. Some of the demands tabled by local communities include involving local communities in planning and identification of companies that expropriate resources. Communities also want Timber companies to employ locals so that issues of rampant unemployment in the area are addressed and also ensure that timber companies initiate development projects in communities as part of corporate social responsibility. As part of resolutions, peace actors were tasked to identify and mediate in resource based conflicts and other related conflicts in their areas. This will include identifying players to the conflicts as well as identifying the various stakeholders who can help end the conflicts.
The intervention by Lupane Youth Development Trust is one among many interventions by Heal Zimbabwe that allows facilitate for local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities. Such intervention help build peaceful and socially cohesive communities.