The Contested Floodplain. Institutional Change of the Commons in the Kafue Flats, Zambia

Haller, Tobias (2013). The Contested Floodplain. Institutional Change of the Commons in the Kafue Flats, Zambia. Lanham USA: Lexington (Rowman & Littlefield)

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The Contested Floodplain tells the story of institutional changes in the management of common pool resources (pasture, wildlife, and fisheries) among Ila and Balundwe agro-pastoralists and Batwa fishermen in the Kafue Flats, in southern Zambia. It explains how and why a once rich floodplain area, managed under local common property regimes, becomes a poor man’s place and a degraded resource area. Based on social anthropological field research, the book explains how well working institutions in the past, regulating communal access to resources, have turned into state property and open access or privatization. The study focuses on the historic developments taking place since pre-colonial and colonial times up to today. Haller shows how the commons had been well regulated by local institutions in the past, often embedded in religious belief systems. He then explains the transformation from common property to state property since colonial times. When the state is unable to provide well-functioning institutions due to a lack in financial income, it contributes to de facto open access and degradation of the commons. The Zambian copper-based economy has faced crisis since 1975, and many Zambians have to look for economic alternatives and find ways to profit from the lack of state control (a paradox of the present-absent state). And while the state is absent, external actors use the ideology of citizenship to justify free use of resources during conflicts with local people. Also within Zambian communities, floodplain resources are highly contested, which is illustrated through conflicts over a proposed irrigation scheme in the area.

Item Type:

Book (Monograph)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Haller, Tobias


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Lexington (Rowman & Littlefield)




Tobias Haller

Date Deposited:

02 May 2014 11:05

Last Modified:

02 May 2014 11:05

Additional Information:

With a foreword by Elisabeth Colson

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Common Pool Resource Management, New Institutiuonalism, Institutional Change, Floodplains, Wetlands in Drylands, Fisheries, Wildlife, Pasture, Conflict, Power, Ideology, Africa, Zambia


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