The study of protected area downgrading and downsizing (PADD) in Africa has largely been confined to rustic and nature reserves outside urban boundaries. This study addresses the gap in research practice and puts a focus on urban public parks, a reference to Harare Gardens, located within central Harare. The case study of this important park engaged the political ecology lenses as a basis for understanding the significance of public parks in urban environments. Operationalization of the study involved interviews with various stakeholders including the city officials and experts in urban planning and conservation, as well as observations and examination of published documents. Several lessons and observations are made. First, downsizing is mainly a result of increasing demand for urban land in Harare, which seems to be exhausted. Second, downscaling was explained through eco-development where the City of Harare sought to maximize on land-use. Third, the rationale for the PADD of Harare Gardens has been mainly for selfish reasons by individuals who manipulate the land market in Harare and subsequently benefit from the process. Fourth, politics takes a central role in influencing the occurrence of PADD in Zimbabwe that has been the case with Harare Gardens. Our findings suggest that the decision to downsize Harare Gardens was largely politically driven considering that such occurrences have been on-going in the city and led to the downsizing and downgrading of other protected areas such as wetlands.
This article assesses the legal and institutional framework around governance of wetlands and wetland-related ecosystem services in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe (member of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands). A mixed research methodology, comprising review of literature, interviews, document analysis, and Geographical Information Systems, forms the key methodology used in this study. Results from analyzed data show that lack of a clear and harmonized legal and institutional framework is leading the Harare’s wetlands to rapidly shrink and affecting their ability to provide key ecosystem services, such as clean water, flood protection, recreational areas, and wildlife. In addition, both overlapping roles and functions among the various institutions and legislations are responsible for wetland management in Harare. Key recommendation emerging from the study points to the need to define clear boundaries and harmonization of key legislations to promote the sustainability of wetlands in Harare.