What happens when global institutions try to assist community conservation in some of the world’s least industrialised areas? Among the `cutting edge’ projects grant-aided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF, a World Bank-hosted fund for `global environmental benefits’) are `CAMPFIRE’ – the Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources – in Zimbabwe, and `India Ecodevelopment’. Both are intended to combine protection of biodiverse wildlife with participatory rural development for impoverished local communities. We explore the `ground truths’ of these projects in two historical and political contexts. We ask whether aspiring managers of `global resources’ can sufficiently transcend ongoing tensions in `local political ecology’, while diverse value systems and experiences remain distant. We conclude with thoughts about the `sustainable development’ of foreign missions old and new.