This article briefly describes the experiences and lessons of community based planning (CBP) in two pilot districts (Gwanda and Chimanimani) in Zimbabwe. The CCP process created the need to revitalise the planning and development structures in the pilot districts and engaged government throughout the process, which resulted in the mainstreaming of community empowerment principles in the decentralisation of the government of Zimbabwe. The article gives a background to governance systems in Zimbabwe and describes the more recent systems for participation and local government, as well as participation in the NGO sector. It explores the evolution of CBP in Zimbabwe naming the key concerns such as the lack of public participation in decision making and development, lack of communication between governing institutions, and domination of top-down strategies; together with the potential benefits of CBP in handling these issues. It illustrates the CBP approach used with an adaptation of the four-countries (a DFID funded project covering Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and South Africa) CBP training manual; training of facilitators; ward planning; community documentation of plans; integration of plans at Rural District Council level; budget allocations; and knowledge sharing. Some of the innovations in the use of participatory methodologies were the setting up of a core facilitation team; the creative involvement of respected community leaders as facilitators; establishment of District Training Teams; a financing system to sustain community participation; and building consensus of divergent groups. The impact and outcomes of the project are accounted for, together with lessons learned and visions for the future.
International Institute for Environment and Development