Accepted Paper:

Conservation on contested lands: the communal conservancies in Namibia  

Author:

Eduard Gargallo (ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

Communal Conservancies in Namibia are being used by rural communities as tools for securing access to land in a moment when it is perceived as increasingly scarce. Peasants, Traditional Authorities, the State and conservationists all try to influence the use that will be given to contested lands.

Paper long abstract:

Communal Conservancies (CCs) in Namibia have been portrayed as a successful example of community conservation in Southern Africa. The aim of this paper is to analyze how CCs are being used by rural communities as tools for gaining or securing access to communal land in a moment when it is perceived as increasingly scarce. Peasants, Traditional Authorities, the State and conservationists all try to influence the use that will be given to contested lands. The paper will focus on two cases: King Nehale Conservancy, a heavily populated mixed agricultural land in North-Central Namibia (Owamboland) and Nyae Nyae Conservancy, a semi-arid land inhabited by a historically marginalized population, the Ju/'hoan San. In King Nehale, the community as a whole has enjoyed reasonably secure land tenure, but now this is perceived as threatened by a growing population and the fencing of land by commercial farmers. The Conservancy is seen as both a way to control this and to regain access to natural resources such as game. Nyae Nyae is the only land in the country officially recognized as belonging to the San, who have used the Conservancy as a way to keep other communities away, with limited success and amid growing conflicts. In both cases Conservancies contribute to an increased control by communities over their land, but also imply the reinforcement of the presence of the State and private capital in communal areas, and become part of the internal struggles among sections of the communities themselves: Traditional Authorities, commercial farmers, women, etc.

Panel P027
Territory and community: the scalar dimensions of political authority, identity and conflict in contemporary Africa