Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

As an ORU, the Center for African Studies seeks to increase the extent, depth, and quality of research and teaching on Africa within the University community and to serve as a resource center for the larger public. Established in 1979 as an interdisciplinary research center, the Center supports basic research and training of scholars, and scholarly activities over a broad range of topics. The Center also provides opportunities for students majoring in traditionally defined fields to develop a comprehensive interdisciplinary program in African Studies, and grants scholarships for language training in African languages and overseas research funding for advanced graduate students. The Center supports interdisciplinary research focus groups (RFG's) that address Africa's major concerns. The RFG's are organized around shared intellectual interests and bring faculty and graduate students from departments and professional schools together on a regular basis for discussion of new literature and presentation of work in progress. Current groups include:

  • Popular Culture
  • Rethinking Globalization
  • South Africa in Transition
  • Natural Resources and Political Ecology
  • Democratization and Human Rights
  • African languages and cultures
Cover page of A spatial location-allocation GIS framework for managing water resources in a savanna nature reserve

A spatial location-allocation GIS framework for managing water resources in a savanna nature reserve


Associated with the establishment of removal of water sources in savanna ecosystems is the issue of the effects of such management actions on animal movement and habitat selection, longer term implications on population levels, and impacts of such change on habitat degradation and soil erosion. Extant metrics used to describe the spatial distribution of water sources on the landscape often fall short of providing source-specific information, making them hard to apply in small-scale management settings. Using the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR) as a case study, we compare a buffer framework, describing distances to water, a nearest neighbour framework, a spatial location-allocation framework (SLAF) created in a geographic information system (GIS). These three frameworks can be combined into one GIS to demonstrate site-specific information on water source distribution, in addition to system-wide descriptions. The visually accessible quality of a GIS allows qualitative input from managers and property owners to achieve quantifiable management goals. The duality of database and visual representation provides a useful tool to assess the role of individual water sources and can easily be updated to reflect changes in their distribution.

Cover page of Shifting propagation: The political economy of bioprospecting in Madagascar

Shifting propagation: The political economy of bioprospecting in Madagascar


Addressing a worldwide concern, the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio provided the first global regulatory consortium dealing with the plight of genetic resources. However, far from settling concerns, the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) sparked numerous debates coalescing around the proprietary use and control of genetic resources. Some contend it is the subsequent phrasing and adoption of the term genetic resources by the CBD protocols that framed genetic or biochemical material and information in the context of an "exchangeable commodity," thereby conflating the value of genetic materials to that of a commodity to be captured, extracted and manipulated similar to previous forest-based natural resources (e.g., high-value timber, charcoal). Genetic resources are similar in ways to forest-based commodities by the spatial configurations they both share. But researchers theorizing natural resources note that it is the “different properties and commodity characteristics” that shape the processes according to which labor and value are appropriated for the distribution of benefits (Peluso and Watts, 2001:26). My research question focuses on how the material (biophysical and social) characteristics of genetic resources shape the spatial and temporal dimensions of bioprospecting in Madagascar. As my point of departure, I have constructed a three-part resource typology of plants that were once or are currently being extracted from Madagascar for biomedical uses. This resource typology follows the temporal stages leading to commercialization. These different stages of commercialization include: (1) non-articulated (early stage- relies on the biological material), (2) semi-articulated (intermediate stage- semi-synthetic) and, (3) fully articulated (most advanced stage- have isolated the compound for chemical synthesis). For this research, I will employ a Commodity Chain Analysis (CCA) to follow the relations of each of the types of resources included in the typology. With the use of a CCA, I will investigate the chain of relations including the prospecting or exploration, production/collection, transport and exchange of genetic resources. The product of this research will be helpful by those evaluating the relevance of current Access and Benefit Sharing protocols (ABS), and the application of more efficient distributive mechanisms.

Cover page of Communities, conservation, and tourism-based development: Can community-based nature tourism live up to its promise?

Communities, conservation, and tourism-based development: Can community-based nature tourism live up to its promise?


This working paper draws from research on the Makuleke Region of Kruger Park, South Africa, to analyze the opportunities and tensions generated by efforts to use conservation-based tourism as a catalyst for community development. By attending to the political economies in which effort is embedded, I seek to enrich our theorizations of community-based natural resource management. This paper represents an initial step in that direction; the Makuleke case is used to identify and think through the implications of nature tourism for participating communities. Like many other protected areas, the origins of the Makuleke Region lie in convergence of dispossession, forced removal, and conservation. The Makuleke, who consider the land their ancestral home, were forcibly removed in the late 1960s so that the land could be incorporated into Kruger National Park. They regained title in 1998, and have subsequently pursued economic development through conservation. While co-managing the Region with SANParks, the parastatal that manages all national protected areas, the Makuleke have sought to develop a tourism initiative that will produce economic self reliance and development. In adopting this strategy, the Makuleke are engaging with local, national, and international political economies over which community actors have limited room for maneuver. This case brings three factors to light. First, the legacy of fortress conservation may make it more difficult for community actors to engage with their partners on an equal basis. Second, sectoral attributes of tourism pose special challenges to CBNRM initiatives; it is not clear that tourism projects will produce substantial benefits. Third, the coincidence of the shift to CBNRM with liberalization and democratization has altered the landscape on which all conservation efforts are situated. The confluence of these factors have created an environment in which state protected areas, community controlled conservation areas, and private game parks are competing for domestic and international tourist revenue.

Cover page of Common goods and the common good: Transboundary natural resources, principled cooperation, and the Nile Basin Initiative

Common goods and the common good: Transboundary natural resources, principled cooperation, and the Nile Basin Initiative


Transboundary natural resources present particular problems for the international community, and the community of African States presents no exception. The peaceful management and utilization of these resources is a universal aspiration, but the principles and norms governing international cooperation over natural resources are often just as contested as the ownership of the resource itself. In Part One, the emergent practices, norms and principles applicable to transboundary freshwater and petroleum are reviewed, along with the possibility of further development of these norms through the current mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Shared Natural Resources, Ambassador Chusei Yamada. The history of the UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses is reviewed, with an emphasis upon the foundational principles which it contains. The emergence of the petroleum Joint Development Agreement is also analyzed, again emphasizing the fundamental norms of cooperation upon which this practice has been built. Part Two addresses the specific example of the Nile River Basin, examining theories of distributive justice in the light of State practice in the Nile River Basin to date. A vision of distributive justice and state action is advanced, drawing on the theoretical bases of the morality of states, and cosmopolitanism. A combination of pragmatic and theoretical perspectives permits the development of recommendations for future action by States engaged in the Nile Basin Initiative, for the common good.

Cover page of Personal markets and impersonal communities? Prospects for community conservation in Botswana

Personal markets and impersonal communities? Prospects for community conservation in Botswana


Notwithstanding the regressive impacts of structural adjustment on most African countries, creating “viable” markets have now become an important goal for development interventions. At the same time, devolving responsibility from the state to local actors is now accepted as a critical ingredient for successful development. Underlying these shifts in the development discourse is the idea is that rules and responsibilities can be successfully realigned between different actors and institutions. This paper considers the various logics of institutional coordination evident in current efforts to promote wildlife management in Botswana through community collaborations with state regulators and private concerns. As communities, bureaucrats and firms develop new rules to conserve wildlife and alter agricultural practices, state and market structures become “embedded” in institutional and cultural patterns of African communities in new ways. The paper traces institutional patterns and organizational capacities that emerge through the articulation of imposed and pre-existing institutional logics. The infusion of market and state logics is often incomplete and older logics of social organization can become the raw materials for the creation of new institutional practices. An interesting finding of this research is that extra-community actors idealize the way in which communities are embedded in reciprocal-personalistic relationships and economy of affection structures. The state purports to provide an enabling environment by providing a legal framework. However, in reality we see the state’s embeddedness in its paternalistic view of local people, as “children who need grow up.” Market actors exhibit their embeddedness by masking their profit motive behind the idioms of reciprocity. Local communities re-work legacies of prior marginalization through the idiom of community based market-friendly conservation strategies to gain access to areas from which they were excluded in the past. The findings in this paper thus deepen our theoretical understanding of the social embeddedness of the state and the market. At the same time, the articulations highlighted in the paper helps us specify and explore more precisely the ways in which culture and tradition bound choice and preference formation.

Cover page of Linking farmer, forest and watershed: Understanding forestry and soil resource management along the upper Njoro River, Kenya

Linking farmer, forest and watershed: Understanding forestry and soil resource management along the upper Njoro River, Kenya


This paper presents research-in-progress to understand small farmers’ soil and forestry management techniques in the Upper Catchment of the River Njoro (UCRN) in Kenya. This paper seeks to answer the following questions: How do farmers in the UCRN view and manage soil and forestry resources? What does this imply for development and conservation planners concerned with watershed and environmental services? The study blends social science approaches and biophysical assessment. Interviews were conducted between July and September of 2003 with a sample of 15 hillside farmers located within 200 meters (m) of first order streams or springs. Questions addressed agronomic practices, economic issues, the use of local tree resources, soil management perceptions and practices, and farmer awareness of landscape ecology and hydrology. Biophysical data included inventory, frequency and use of on-farm tree species, soil samples, and GPS points for each farm. Laboratory tests revealed soil quality indicators. This paper presents UCRN farmer perceptions of soil fertility and yields from the interviews and compares these perceptions to an agronomic analysis of yield limitations. Use and perception of forestry resources by interview farmers in the UCRN is also described in relation to large-scale agroecological processes, such as altered hydrologic cycling and soil erosion under new land use and cropping patterns. This information is compared with biophysical data to identify “gaps” between local and scientific knowledge. Consideration of biophysical characteristics of these upland agroecosystems in tandem with farmer perception and management provides insight for environmental planners concerned with the promotion of improved farm and land use systems (LUS) in the highlands of East Africa.

Cover page of Local responses to marine conservation in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Local responses to marine conservation in Zanzibar, Tanzania


While terrestrial parks and reserves have existed in Tanzania since colonial times, marine protected areas are a much newer endeavor in natural resource conservation. As the importance of marine conservation came to the international forefront in the 1990s, Tanzania experienced a rapid establishment and expansion of marine parks and protected areas. These efforts were indeed crucial to protecting the country’s marine resource base, but they also had significant implications for the lives and fishing patterns of local artisanal fishermen. Terrestrial protected areas in Tanzania have historically been riddled with conflict and local contestation, bringing about numerous debates on the best ways to involve rural residents in conservation planning efforts to establish new “community-based conservation” programs. However, because marine protected areas do not have the same history as terrestrial conservation in Tanzania, marine conservation programs present a new opportunity to pilot innovative techniques to involve local communities in protecting and managing their natural resources. The islands of Zanzibar are home to four community-oriented marine protected areas, each of which is sponsored by an external agency, and each of which involves some form of local community component. However, a number of issues arise when working at the community level, requiring nuanced attention to a variety of local factors. The Menai Bay program in southern Zanzibar provides an excellent example of the complexity of factors involved, which can result in dramatically different village-level responses to a single program. These factors include, but are not limited to, differences in geography and infrastructure, the potential for tourism development and alternative sources of income, pre-existing community structures within each village, and the relationship of conservation program managers to the Zanzibari government. While these factors are complex and difficult to predict, it is essential that conservation programs take them into account when trying to establish community-based marine conservation programs that will be sustainable in the long-term.

Cover page of Spaces of change: Tribal authorities in the former KaNgwane homeland, South Africa

Spaces of change: Tribal authorities in the former KaNgwane homeland, South Africa


An underreported consequence of the democratic transition is its impact upon localized governance systems in mediating development opportunities within the former homelands of South Africa. Colonialism and apartheid utilized traditional authorities to control landscapes and people, and while these systems continue to influence the livelihood opportunities available to rural households, their scope and influence are being renegotiated by the emergence of new governance structures. This paper uses a case study from the former KaNgwane homeland to evaluate the role of the Matsamo Tribal Authority in shaping access to land, wood and agricultural projects in the region. It is argued that the colonial and apartheid empowerment of the tribal authorities continues to have symbolic and material meaning within KaNgwane, which shapes the ways that rural households benefit from conservation and development. In the post-apartheid era, newly created democratic structures are challenging traditional governance systems by reworking household access to environmental resources. The intersection between these contrasting, and historically situated, systems suggests a dynamic renegotiation is occurring that will continue to impact rural households within the former places of apartheid.

Cover page of Linking local perceptions of elephants and conservation: Samburu pastoralists in northern Kenya

Linking local perceptions of elephants and conservation: Samburu pastoralists in northern Kenya


This paper examines the development and implementation of a grassroots elephant conservation program based upon the Samburu people's perceptions and knowledge of elephants in the areas surrounding the Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves in Northern Kenya. Ethnographic methods were used to understand these perceptions and demonstrated that strong customs and traditions for conserving wildlife, particularly elephants, exist among the Samburu people. It became evident that these customs are changing given various factors influencing Samburu culture and younger generations. The use of economic incentives is a widely accepted method to foster positive attitudes and behavior towards wildlife. The value of using ethnographic methods to reinforce positive indigenous knowledge about wildlife, however, is underestimated. This case study highlights the significance of using ethnographic methods in community conservation program design. The paper demonstrates that in local contexts where cultural perceptions and traditions towards elephants are largely positive, this is a viable approach for community based wildlife management that is complementary to economic incentives programs.

Cover page of Negotiating reforms at home: Natural resources and the politics of energy access in urban Tanzania

Negotiating reforms at home: Natural resources and the politics of energy access in urban Tanzania


Household access to resources in urban areas is increasingly contested as a political arena under the rubric of globalization. These debates focus on the coming together of urban population growth, increasing inequality, and economic restructuring - processes that cut through arenas of households, communities, national policies, and international regimes. Sector reforms including privatizations of urban resource services and infrastructures such as water, transportation, and energy all figure prominently in these debates and have important stakes for household and community access. This paper is part of a broader dissertation research project focused on unraveling the historical, resource, and discursive processes producing conditions of urban energy in Dar es Salaam. It presents a preliminary set of arguments suggesting that reforms may be contributing to dynamics that may increase and sustain urban charcoal use, and consequently increase pressure on forestry resources. The relationship between formal and informal resource economies, community-level resource strategies, and differentiated intra-household dynamics around labor, gender, and power all play central roles in this discussion. This paper arrives at its main argument through three parts. First, it introduces the specific policies connected with reforms and their historical origins in a paradigm shift from treating energy as a public service to a commodity good. Second, it lays out a framework for conceptualizing dynamics of household energy access, where reform policies may rework access conditions in important ways. Third, it elaborates the main hypothesis of this paper by showing how charcoal is now the cheapest cooking fuel as a result of changing fuel pricing policies and elaborates a set of dynamics around consumer goods that may serve to further differentiate types of energy priorities and direct resources away from spaces of kitchens. The paper concludes with a short discussion of the policy implications and next steps in the broader research project.