A Preliminary Degradation Pathology of Rangeland Declines Near Opuwo in the Kunene, Namibia: The Tragedy of Disrupting Traditional Commons Management

Hugh Pringle


The Kunene in far north-western Namibia is widely recognised as having amongst the most widely and severely degraded rangelands (de Klerk, 2004; Joubert et al., 2008), yet this was not always the case. In many communal areas, major episodes of degradation have only occurred for the first time in recent decades. The degradation is not many decades old and yet it is seen as obvious support for the concept of the tragedy of the commons (Hardin, 1968). This simplistic, convenient interpretation of change is strongly dissonant with what I have observed first hand. What has gone wrong and can this inform us about rangeland rehydration and repair? I draw on experiences from a small number of communities with whom I worked and learnt to piece together what has gone wrong. I also suggest cause for optimism of rangeland revival in the Kunene when the fundamental, root causes are addressed with clear community ownership and leadership based on local, people-centred problem solving. The major challenges are cultural, social, administrative and perhaps economic. They are not lack of knowledge regarding scientific rangeland management although the latter needs adaptive attention in a new, socially engineered human context.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/se.v6n1p142


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