Deforestation and Reforestation in Namibia

The Global Consequences of Local Contradictions


Descriptions of the late 1800s landscape in the Ovambo floodplain in north-central Namibia closely match the area’s late 1900s appearance, suggesting that little change occurred between the pre-colonial baseline and the postcolonial outcome. Yet, paradoxically, colonial conquest, population pressure, biological invasions, new technology, and economic globalization caused both dramatic deforestation and reforestation in less than a century. The paradox stems from the fact that the prevailing global environmental models obscure and homogenize the process of environmental change: different and contradictory interpretations are dismissed as alternative readings or misreadings of the same process. Deforestation and Reforestation, however, argues that the paradox highlights the need to reframe environmental change as plural processes occurring along multiple trajectories that may be dissynchronized and asymmetrical.
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Biographical Note

Emmanuel Kreike, PhD (2006) in Forestry, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and PhD (1996) in History, Yale University, is Associate Professor of History at Princeton University. He authored Re-Creating Eden: Land Use, Environment, and Society in Southern Angola and Northern Namibia (Heinemann, 2004).

Table of contents


Acknowledgments ix
Abbreviations xiii
Maps xv
Photos xvii

1. Approaches to environmental change
Models of environmental change
The modernization paradigm
The declinist paradigm
The inclinist paradigm
Paradoxes of environmental change

2. Tree castles and population bombs
Tree castles and insecurity on the eve of colonial conquest
Portuguese violence and population fight into Ovamboland
Internal migration in South Africa’s Ovamboland
Tree castles and deforestation in the 1920s to 1940s
Colonial concerns about overpopulation and deforestation in the 1950s
Population growth in Ovamboland
Woody vegetation resources by the close of the twentieth century

3. Conquest of Nature: Imperial political ecologies
The political ecology of insecurity
Indirect environmental rule
The colonial conquest of Nature: Direct environmental rule

4. Fierce species: Biological imperialism
Invading microbes and virgin soil epizootics
Invading microbes and virgin soil epidemics
A plague of donkeys: Fierce invading equines
Fierce indigenous creatures on the rampage

5. Guns, hoes and steel:
Techno-environmental determinism
Steel tools
Steel plows
Guns and steel in north-central Namibia

6.Naturalizing cattle culture: Colonialism as a deglobalizing and decommodifying force
The cattle complex and environmental degradation
Ovambo cattle as global commodities
Cattle, culture and nature
Overstocking and biological time bombs
Colonial barriers: Conservation and fences
Grazing pressure and desertification
Livestock and deforestation
Commodification, deglobalization and deforestation

7. The Palenque paradox: Beyond Nature-to-Culture
Bush cities and the bush
‘Bushmen’ and the bush

8. The Ovambo paradox and environmental pluralism
Deforestation in Ovamboland
Reforestation in Ovamboland
Environmental pluralism: Multiprocessual asynchronous environmental change



The book serves general readers as well as students and specialists in various fields, including environmental history and environmental studies, African studies, world history, forestry, anthropology, geography, politics, and development.


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