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Universität zu Köln (2007)

Plants and Pastures. Local knowledge on livestock-environment relationships among OvaHerero pastoralists in north-western Namibia

Tönsjost, Silke

Titre  : Plants and Pastures. Local knowledge on livestock-environment relationships among OvaHerero pastoralists in north-western Namibia

Auteur : Tönsjost, Silke

Université de soutenance : Universität zu Köln

Grade : Master thesis 2007

Résumé
This Master’s Thesis, in collaboration with the special research area ACACIA (Arid Climate, Adaptation and Cultural Innovation in Africa) and the Volkswagen Junior Research Group �Savanna Range Management� both situated at the University Cologne, investigates the influence of the local perception of the environment on communal range management strategies. OvaHerero pastoralists in north-western Namibia are a semi-nomadic pastoralist group, herding cattle and goats in a communal area. This semi-arid habitat is characterized by a high spatial and temporal variability of natural resources as fodder plants. In this work, the perception of local fodder plants is examined regarding the choice of pastures and the management of diverse stock. The methods of cognitive anthropology used in this study are a useful tool to understand the OvaHerero pastoralists� criteria for decision-making. It becomes visible that the cognitive process of perception regarding fodder plants is linked with other cultural domains such as the use of plants in the domains of food, medicine and religion. Furthermore, it is shown that local knowledge is not homogenous and stable ; rather, the analysis of the variables of gender and age point to a great heterogeneity, including the perception of natural resources. These results reflect the areas of production of men, women, boys and girls. Another outcome which is important for Range Ecology is the high emic importance of woody species for the choice of pastures. This is as important for cattle as for goats. The comparison between ecological and local rankings makes clear that the high importance of herbaceous species as grasses is not reflected in the high local ranking of woody species for animals� nutrition. Although the herbaceous biomass is highly estimated by OvaHerero pastoralists, the herders orientate themselves by scarce times, when woody species are a valuable resource. Both the use of scarce herbaceous fodder resources and that of woody species, according to the kind of livestock, are temporally and spatially organised in order to gain economical, ecological and social benefit. This Master�s Thesis is based on 4 months of fieldwork in Namibia in 2006, and draws upon quantitative as well as qualitative data.

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