Land degradation is not a necessary outcome of communal pastoralism in arid Namibia

David Ward, Ben T. Ngairorue, Johannes Kathena, Rana Samuels, Yanay Ofran

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In Otjimbingwe, a region of arid south-central Namibia, human population densities are high and these communal pastoralists own large numbers of livestock. Such situations are commonly perceived to lead to the 'tragedy of the commons'. This region lends itself to a comparison of the effects of communal and commercial farming (with private land ownership) because the communal area is completely surrounded by commercial farms. In spite of far higher stocking densities on the communal areas and the absence of an overall grazing strategy, we found no evidence of the 'tragedy of the commons' on Otjimbingwe. Indeed, the communal areas did not differ in a number of soil and vegetation parameters from the commercial farms. These results point both to the resilience of arid environments to high stocking levels and the over-riding influence of abiotic variables on environmental quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-371
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Japhet Karamata, Immanuel Kapofi, Vilho Mtuleni, Andre Apollus and Hermanus Tjiveze for their assistance. We also thank the community of Otjimbingwe and the farmers of Tsaobis, Okomitundu, Neu Schwaben, Donkerhuk and Davetsaub for their assistance and for allowing us to work on their land. This study was funded by grant TA-MOU-94-C13-149 from the U.S. Agency for International Development to David Ward, Uriel Safriel and Mary Seely. This is publication number 265 of the Mitrani Center for Desert Ecology and publication number 60 of the Ramon Science Center.


  • Deserts
  • Grazing
  • Land degradation
  • Namibia
  • Pastoralism
  • Soil organic carbon


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