Traditional innovations: an analysis of traditional land-use and management institutions of Ngamiland, Botswana
PublisherUniversity of Botswana, www.ub.ac.bw
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Mounting global dependence on natural resources has exacerbated natural resource depletion, land degradation and poverty levels worldwide. Scientists and planners acknowledging that science does not have all the answers to growing social, economic and ecological problems imply that the world collectively has a duty to use land and natural resources sustainably. This has opened attention to other disciplines such as traditional knowledge for possible solutions. According to scholars of traditional livelihoods, a country’s national, social and economic stability is determined by (i) the extent that policy incorporates traditional systems of its people (ii) its ecological wealth (iii) a secure land tenure system and iv) visionary leadership. Botswana is applauded by many countries for being one of the most socially, economically and politically stable countries in Africa. It is ecologically diverse and is home to more than thirty five ethnic groups (Tlou, 1971). A large part of the tourism, agriculture, mineral, energy and water extraction economy is based on natural resources (International Monetary Fund, 2017). Similarly, a large portion of the population subsists on natural resources (Kgathi, Ngwenya, & Darkoh, 2010). It is also counted amongst the few African countries with a secure land tenure system and visionary leaders. Nevertheless Ngamiland District in northwestern Botswana, has one of the highest poverty levels in the country, has signs of unproductive land-use, natural resource depletion and loss of traditional skills once associated with survival. The Botswana Government has expressed interest in including traditional knowledge in various policies to improve resource use and livelihoods, but incorporation of the various traditional systems seems slow. This may be due to the need to determine the utility of traditional systems in the current era. Various works on traditional knowledge in Botswana have been done. However previous studies focused on general culture; the primary ethnic groups, or one era. There is a small knowledge gap on pre and post-independence traditional ii land-use and management institutions of miscellaneous groups with different emphasis on land along the periphery of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This study uses the Berkes, Folke, and Colding (1998) social-ecological framework to fill that gap. It investigates traditional land-use and management institutions of the OvaMbanderu, WaYei and BaTawana groups in Ngamiland using five iterative data collection activities. Prior to independence in 1966, land-use amongst different ethnic groups countrywide was guided by traditional institutions. After independence, the Government perceived the diverse traditional systems as complex, assumed land authority and transferred it to national state run authorities, known as Land Boards. Land Boards introduced standardized, top-down policies based on Roman-Dutch law that frequently exclude (d) communities from decision-making. Traditional institutions have been further eroded by technology, mainstream education, wage employment, intergenerational preferences etc. Despite decades of stereotypes, the results suggest that traditional knowledge has value in the post-independence era. The results present traditional institutions as checklists amongst all three groups outlining water sources, soil types, animal, fish, tree and grass species that guided communities determine land suitability for various livelihood activities. The results also show that people with distinct traits formed traditional institutional arrangements at multiple levels to govern land and natural resources in a bottom-up approach. To determine the utility of traditional knowledge in improving ecosystem resilience, reducing natural resource depletion and enhancing practical skills for survival, inventories of active traditional systems need to be compiled and deciphered as distinct systems.
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