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Negotiating Water on Unequal Terms: Cattle Loans, Dependencies and Power in Communal Water Management in Northwest Namibia

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This article shows how the distribution of costs for communal boreholes in the Kunene region of northwest Namibia is largely shaped by patron-client relationships based on cattle loans among pastoralists. Drawing on a case study in the context of state water decentralisation reforms, the paper argues that, while cattle loans provide livelihood security for poor Himba herders, they also limit their bargaining power with regards to negotiating local contribution rules for the communal water point. Poorer heads of household find it difficult to negotiate on equal terms with their wealthy counterparts because they depend on their cattle transfers to make a living. As a result, contribution rules disadvantaging the poor are put into practice, leading to tensions between herders and putting pressure on social relations of support.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
    Nomadic Peoples has a Journal Impact Factor (2022) of 0.9. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.9.
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