Landscapes are invested with meaning and are inherently political. Conservation and development programs in Zimbabwe’s south-east ‘lowveld’ have been rooted in concepts of the landscape: either as a wilderness to be tamed into a productive landscape by white ‘pioneers’ or as a pristine natural landscape to be preserved, rehabilitated, or consciously manufactured. The uses and perceptions of this landscape by African people have been ignored in policies derived from the ‘wilderness vision’. Dryland agriculture in the lowveld has been regularly dismissed as inappropriate, rather than as a key livelihood strategy; irrigation and livestock projects have been biased towards large-scale commercial sector initiatives; and wildlife conservation initiatives have imposed coercive regulations on resource use, deepening antagonism over land. The farm invasions in recent years have re-peopled the wildernesses. Starkly contrasting ways of understanding this landscape have been revealed, which have radically different implications for conservation and development policy.