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Ongoing Projects

[Risk-Management in a Pastoral Community]
[Vulnerability and risk management in the farming system in the Kunene region, Namibia during the 20th century]
[Documentation of the cultural history of the Etosha National Park]
[Strategies of risk-minimization in a semi-urban setting]
[Networks and Vulnerability: a regional comparison]

Completed Projects

[Hai||om between the "Bushmen Problem" and San Activism - Colonial Imaginations and Postcolonial Appropriations of Ethnicity in Namibia]
[Household Economy, Social Structure and Land Tenure in the Richtersveld, South Africa]
[Social Change within a setting of severe state intervention. A case study of the Khwe in West Caprivi]
[Institutional Change, Household economy and Risk-Minimization in Namibia’s Omusati Region]
[Transformations of Communal Resource Management in Tsumkwe District, Namibia]
[Demographic Trends in northern Namibia]
[Landrights and Identity: The case of the Khwe of West Caprivi (Namibia)]
[Tourism in the Richtersveld, South Africa]
[Key concepts in HIV/AIDS prevention in Swaziland]
[„Christ Crushes HIV-Crisis“ – how Namibian Pentecostal Churches Cope with HIV/AIDS Epidemy]
[Pastures, Water, Wildlife: Natural-Resource-Management and Conflict Resolution in a Conservancy of northern Namibia]


Namibian People 1
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Namibian People 2
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Ongoing Projects


Risk-Management in a Pastoral Community

Michael Bollig

The pastoral Himba have had to cope with environmental hazards as much as with a politically instable system throughout their recent history. Droughts are frequent and unpredictably recurring events. They result in major losses of livestock. The range of pastoral strategies was severely limited by colonial encapsulation. Himba herders were cut off from major livestock markets and were forced into a subsistence economy. Herders have developed a range of strategies to deal with the immediate effects of a crisis. Reliance on substitute foods (especially the nuts of Hyphenae ventricosa), sharing of food and spatial mobility are of importance. Institutionalized mechanisms comprise complex exchange networks as much as rules conducive to a sustainable management.



Vulnerability and risk management in the farming system in the Kunene region, Namibia during the 20th century

Ute Dieckmann (M.A.)

The study investigates the historical development of the farming sector in the Kunene region in Namibia during the 20th century. It aims at the description and exploration of the increasing settlement during the German and South African colonial times against the background of the difficult ecological conditions for agriculture in Namibia and the political transformations during the colonial period. Ecological as well as political conditions are considered as independent variables which shaped the livelihood strategies employed on the farms in the region. For the purpose of the study, it is necessary to include the farm owners’ and the farm workers’ perspectives. Both groups had different interests and employed different strategies to secure a living on the farms. The project includes archival documents as well as oral history in order to obtain a better understanding of the process of settlement and the changes in livelihood strategies taking place.



Documentation of the cultural history of the Etosha National Park

Ute Dieckmann (M.A.)

Although nowadays the Etosha National Park is popular as “Africa’s untamed wilderness”, the area has a long cultural history. Etosha is replete with sites of historical and archaeological significance: pre-colonial trade and transport routes, hunting grounds, old villages, gathering areas, battle-fields and meeting places. Etosha was proclaimed as a game reserve by the German colonial government in 1907. The Hai||om, who had lived in the area for centuries, were still allowed to live at the various waterholes within the reserve area and to hunt and gather for their own consumption until the 1950s. Some of the individuals, who experienced this former way of life as hunter and gatherers, are still alive and have vivid recollections of that time. They can explain in much detail about the development of the park. With regard to the centenary of the park in 2007, this project seeks to develop historical resources on Etosha National Park, employing both archival material and oral testimonies. The resources, e.g. cultural maps, are intended to demonstrate Etosha’s cultural heritage and to benefit local communities. The archaeological research is carried out by Dr. R. Vogelsang (B 4).



Strategies of risk-minimization in a semi-urban setting

Anne Schady (M.A.)

Currently I am conducting research in a small town, Clanwilliam, in South Africa. I take a look at the role that in particular development projects play in the context of risk minimization. Having been engaged with different development projects in Southern Africa I made the observation that people targeted by development projects seem to utilize these projects in ways not necessarily intended by project managers. Often these projects seem to become one of many sources of income for the people, either directly through employment, less directly through the acquirement of incentives or even more indirectly through access to power, e.g. decision-making or influence on the allocation of funds. In my research I want to take a look at the way development projects are utilized by the people in the context of their everyday risk minimizing strategies.



Networks and Vulnerability: a regional comparison

Dr. Michael Schnegg

For many people in southern Africa interhousehold sharing is a vital component of their daily livelihood. Over the past years the SFB389 has collected rich ethnographic evidence about sharing and exchange. In addition to ethnographic descriptions most case studies include a corpus of social network data that illuminates exchange relationships. The aim of this project is to compare these data and to gain a comprehensive view about similarities and variations in the architecture of exchange. This comparison builds on recent work done in complexity science. Barabasis (2002) and his working group have convincingly demonstrate that complex systems have quasi universal properties. The comparison will use some of these concepts and analyze the scale, the vulnerability and the clusterability of exchange systems. These properties allow us to understand how exchange networks become a reliable safeguard in an extremely insecure environment and reduce the vulnerability of the individual and the household.



Completed Projects


Hai||om between the "Bushmen Problem" and San Activism - Colonial Imaginations and Postcolonial Appropriations of Ethnicity in Namibia

Ute Dieckmann (Ph.D., completed in 2004)

This study deals with the impact of Namibia’s colonial history on the Hai||om, a former hunter and gatherer group in the northern central part of the country and at the various ways Hai||om reacted to the changes coming across with colonialism, above all the increasing white settlement in the area and the impact of nature conservation policy. The study explores the loss of resilience of Hai||om during the course of the last century and the effects of ethnic categorizations and colonial representations in this regard. Furthermore, it explains the post-colonial mobilization of ethnicity in the context of Hai||om’s marginalization and the lack of other opportunities to secure livelihoods. At present, a process is observable, in which a pan-Bushmen identity is construed and members of various “Bushmen” groups organize themselves to claim “indigenousness” on a global stage to regain some of the resources, they have lost during the period of colonialism.




Household Economy, Social Structure and Land Tenure in the Richtersveld, South Africa

Susanne Berzborn (Ph.D., completed)

This study deals with the economic and social situation of pastoralists and wage-labourers in the Richtersveld, situated in the north-western corner of South Africa. The Richtersveld is characterized by a semi-arid climate with erratic rainfall, the rangeland mostly being used by small-stock farming with goats and sheep. Due to the fact that both winter- and summer rainfall occurs in the area, there are relatively diverse management options for the stock-farmers. The are also allowed to graze in the Richtersveld National Park, which is co-managed by the local community and South African National Parks.
Richtersveld people face environmental as well as political and labour-marked related risks. The main strategy to cope with these risks is the diversification of sources of income. Even if most of the people own at least some stock, wage-labour in the regional diamond-mines is the main source of income, followed by welfare payments by the state. Further, social networks mainly based on kinship help to minimize and to deal with risks. After the collapse of the Apartheid regime, the interest in an ethnic identity as Nama is re-emerging. Supported by external actors, people re-vitalise their traditions and their language; identity has become a resource e.g. to claim rights to land.



Social Change within a setting of severe state intervention. A case study of the Khwe in West Caprivi.

Gertrud Boden (Ph.D., completed)

Since the 1960s the living conditions and prospects of the central-khoisan-speaking Khwe people in West Caprivi, former hunter-gatherers, have experienced some major changes. In 1963 the area became a nature conservation zone. During and after the war for independence in Angola many Khwe from Angola fled across the border into West Caprivi. During the 1970s and 1980s the latter became a military deployment zone of the South African Defense Forces (SADF) and many Khwe were employed as trackers or soldiers. After the withdrawal of the SADF, the independent Namibian Government implemented an agricultural resettlement scheme which, however, due to ecological constraints, cannot provide sufficient food security every year.

The project aims to describe and explain the impacts of these changes on the social organisation of the Khwe. It concentrates on the subjects of settlement patterns and mobility, kinship ties, identity formation and political organization.



Institutional Change, Household economy and Risk-Minimization in Namibia’s Omusati Region

Brigitte Schwinge (Ph.D, completed)

This research project aims to explain the survival strategies of the agro-pastoral Ovambo in Northern-Namibia. During a one-year's fieldwork in an Ovambo village data about the households' cooperation networks, property rights and the recent change of riskminimizing institutions such as inheritance rights were collected. Analysis will be done from a gender-specific point of view.



Transformations of Communal Resource Management in Tsumkwe District, Namibia

Thekla Hohmann (M.A., completed)

Changing strategies in communal resource management have characterised the economy of the predominantly San population of Tsumkwe District in Northeastern Namibia throughout the past decades. Drastic demographic changes during the later stage of the South African era and political transformations after Namibian Independence have changed economic and political circumstances in the area. The San who this study is focusing on have recently attempted to adopt the community based natural resource management agenda which is promoted by national and international NGOs and donors in order to achieve development in their own sense. The study is dealing especially with the transformations -not only in the economic realm - instigated by this agenda and with conflicting local perspectives arising from the San's recent involvement in CBNRM.



Demographic Trends in northern Namibia

Carmen Humboldt (M.A., completed)

Ovamboland was targeted as the main labour reserve already under German rule and then, with more perfection, under the repressive South African regime. Demographic trends in north-central Namibia (the former Ovamboland) are analysed in this study in a historically contextualized and regionally differentiated way. It is intended to find explanations for high growth rates which could either be caused by high intrinsic growth rates or by external factors like immigration of great numbers of people from wartorn Angola. The study is based on archival material and an explorative study of fertility in Omusati region.



Landrights and Identity: The case of the Khwe of West Caprivi (Namibia)

Ina Orth (M.A., completed)

The study deals with the emergence of a discourse on landrights among the Khwe and between Khwe and members of other groups and representatives of various layers of government. The settlement history of the western Caprivi is reconstructed with the aid of early documents of travellers and archival sources. The political forces which have an impact on the discussion are traced through a survey of newspaper articles, interviews taken in situ and documents released by organisations concerned with the landrights issue. The study focusses on the intricate and complex interrelationship between localized discussions on landrights, shifts in identity constructions and the netting between local actors and national and global players like political pressure groups and indigenous rights activists.



Tourism in the Richtersveld, South Africa

Anke Flören (M.A., completed)

Coming soon.



Key concepts in HIV/AIDS prevention in Swaziland

Anne Schady (M.A., completed)

Community participation and peer education are two of the most widely applied concepts in HIV/AIDS prevention work in Southern Africa. At the example of a local NGO in Swaziland I look at how these concepts are implemented at local level. I suggest that the fuzziness of the concepts undermine the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns.



„Christ Crushes HIV-Crisis“ – how Namibian Pentecostal Churches Cope with HIV/AIDS Epidemy

Sonja Gierse-Arsten (M.A, completed)

This study explores the influence of religion on people’s sexual behaviour concerning HIV/AIDS and how they react to People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). The Pentecostal Churches, a Christian group with fundamentalist bible interpretation, are widely spread around the world, also and especially in Africa. In research about HIV/AIDS in Africa religion plays a minor role, presumably because there is no differentiation between various church types. However high social control in the closely knit Pentecostal Communities and the outstanding powerful position of the church leaders, do bring about a strong influence on peoples behaviour. Once becoming born again the believers are forbidden to consume alcohol and drugs as well as to practice extra- and premarital sexual intercourse (EPMS) and the use of condoms.
The Pentecostal communities are convinced of healing HIV/AIDS through God. If persons are not healed, the faith of the person is considered not enough. In the Pentecostal perception illness is connected with sin, especially EPMS, so the risk of stigmatisation of the PLWHAs is given. But in these churches all members, also the PLWHAs, are expected to support each other with material and symbol goods. They stress on caring PLWHAs and not excluding them.



Pastures, Water, Wildlife: Natural-Resource-Management and Conflict Resolution in a Conservancy of northern Namibia.

Bettina Ziess (M.A, completed)

The study investigates patterns of natural-resource-management and risk minimisation as well as mechanisms of conflict resolution in the pastoral-nomadic Herero-community of Omuramba (Southern Kaokoveld). In this highly risk-prone, semiarid environment with erratic rainfalls and periodical droughts the main risk-minimising strategy observed is spatial mobility. As Omuramba forms part of the Omatendeka conservancy since 2001, the study furthermore investigates the impacts of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) on local resource management. Does CBNRM, especially wildlife-protection, limit pastoral mobility and the access to key resources? Which conflicts arise due to contradicting needs of nature conservation and animal husbandry? How far do new management institutions transform local resource management and the decision-making process? Which conflicts arise?
The theoretical framework comprises theories about risk and risk minimisation in pastoral societies, New Institution Economics and, finally, concepts developed by E. Ostrom with regard to the success and failure of collective action in natural resource management.