Community Fencing in Open Rangelands: Self-Empowerment in Eastern Namibia

Publication Year:

This paper examines the cross-cutting debates of empowerment, vulnerability, sustainability and livelihoods within the local and global contexts relevant to the people of Okonyoka, a settlement of less than 150 people situated in the heart of Eastern Namibia's southern communal lands. Here, people are adapting their livelihoods flexibly in response to both environmental natural resource variability and to changes in social institutions and land use policies. Drought-coping strategies, privatisation of the range and changes to social networks, all have both positive and negative impacts on people's everyday lives. The building of a community fence around 'their land' can be seen as both a defensive and a conservation strategy. Planned, organised, negotiated, funded and built by the community themselves, the fence is a symbol of community selfempowerment. The community have further plans to diversify their land use, enhance their livelihoods, and improve their natural resource base now they have gained control over 'their land'. Such fences can, however, inhibit neighbouring people's livelihoods, and can change long-standing regional drought-coping strategies. The fencing exploits an ambiguity in Namibian land policy: the new Communal Land Bill will make such fencing illegal, but existing fences will remain and provision will be made for the division of land at some future date.

Publication Title:

Review of African Political Economy

Item Type:
Journal Article

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