Disputing the Floodplains

Institutional Change and the Politics of Resource Management in African Wetlands


Editor: Tobias Haller
African Floodplains in semi-arid areas are important for local livelihoods as they harbor many common-pool resources such as fisheries, pasture, wildlife, veldt products, water and land for irrigation. However, in many of these areas resources are under pressure. This book is presenting seven case studies from Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana based on anthropological fieldwork (2002-08) and explores how these common-pool resources have been managed in pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial times. The major focus of the study is how institutional change has contributed to resource management problems and offers a comparative analysis based on the New Institutionalist approach (Jean Ensminger, Elinor Ostrom), which is combined with a special focus on ideology, discourse and narratives while focusing on conflict and power issues. With a foreword by Elinor Ostrom. This book has received the Environmental Research Award 2011 of the University of Bern, Switzerland.
Restricted Access


EUR €74.00USD $97.00

Biographical Note

Tobias Haller, Ph.D. (2001) in Social Anthropology, University of Zürich, is Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland, He has done fieldwork in Cameroon and Zambia and supervised research in many other African Countries. He has published on environmental and resource management issues (commons, protected areas, indigenous peoples and oil exploitation) and New Institutionalism in Africa with a comparative focus on other continents. His publications include Fossile Resources, Indigenous Peoples and Oil Companies (Lit-Publishers, Hamburg, London 2007) and People, Protected Areas and Global Change (NCCR Bern, 2008) and papers in journals such as Human Ecology, Environment and Development, Human Organisation, African Anthropologist, Food Policy, Journal of International Development.

Review Quote

'Anthropologists and historians have written individual case studies that are of considerable value. Without serious efforts to compare historical case studies, however, it is difficult to obtain theoretical results that then can be tested by other scholars. The collection of papers in this book helps us understand resource management processes over time within multiple settings in five African countries. The focus is primarily on floodplain resources, but includes parallel resource problems related to fisheries and open pastures. Each of the chapters is well worth a serious read. Chapter Nine is a particularly valuable contribution to the study of institutional change. Haller provides an excellent synthesis of the work of the eight scholars who have contributed chapters in this book.' Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University and Arizona State University 'This book is a useful addition to any African studies library because it lays out a rigorously detailed and persuasively argued model for environmental history and anthropology, [....] It is a very dry book about very wet places, but it establishes an analytical framework that will undoubtedly be useful for understanding the historical dynamics of African socialecological systems far beyond the wetlands'. Michael Sheridan, Middlebury College In: IJAHS Vol. 45, No. 1 (2012)


All those interested in common pool resource management, history of governance of natural resources and conservation, power, ideology and conflicts in resource management in Africa, comparative analysis, New Institutionalism, Economic, Ecological, Legal and Political Anthropology.