Fragmentation, Cooperation and Power: Institutional Dynamics in Natural Resource Governance in North-Western Namibia

Abstract

Contemporary theoretical accounts of common pool resource management assume that communities are able to develop institutions for sustainable resource management if they are given security of access and appropriate rights of management. In recent years comprehensive legal reforms of communal rural resource management in Namibia have sought to create an institutional framework linking the sustainable use of natural resources (game, water, forest) and rural development. The state, however, ceded rights to rural communities in an ambiguous and fragmented manner, creating a number of instances of overlapping property rights and different legal conditions for different natural resources. Nowadays communities grapple with the challenge of developing institutions for these resource-centered “new commons”. This paper describes the process of local institutional development, focusing on the challenges arising from the necessity to define group boundaries, the issues arising from monitoring and sanctioning within newly defined institutions, and the ideological underpinnings of different trajectories of communal resource management.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While Poteete and Ostrom consider heterogeneity within user groups as a significant point influencing collective action, our cases are quite homogeneous in terms of religion and ethnic affiliation; only differences in wealth are significant.

  2. 2.

    These principles are given to the communities in written form and in a standardized way; they are the basis of the “water point constitution.”

  3. 3.

    If there are no savings, in the event of an emergency such as the pump engine breaking down, the community members make one-off contributions for repairs.

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Acknowledgments

We thank. M. Schnegg, Th. Kelbert, K. Gradt, T. Linke from the LINGS Project, and a group of colleagues from the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Cologne for commenting on previous versions of this text. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped to improve the paper significantly. Research in northern Namibia was sponsored by the German Research Council and VW Foundation.

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Correspondence to Michael Bollig.

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Bollig, M., Menestrey Schwieger, D.A. Fragmentation, Cooperation and Power: Institutional Dynamics in Natural Resource Governance in North-Western Namibia. Hum Ecol 42, 167–181 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9647-7

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Keywords

  • Common pool resource management
  • Conservation
  • Water-management
  • Namibia
  • Pastoralists