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Social Fences, Mental Fences: Contrasting Approaches to Range Management in Southern Lesotho and the Eastern Cape

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Ntshona, Zolile; Turner, Stephen
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4097
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): livestock
social networks
resource management--comparative analysis
Abstract: "Extensive livestock production remains a significant part of livelihoods in many parts of southern Africa where land is not held in freehold, including Lesotho and the former 'homeland' of Transkei, now part of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. In such areas, sustainable livestock production requires some form of community based range management. Based on field research and project support work in the Maluti District of the former Transkei and the Mohale's Hoek and Quthing Districts of southern Lesotho, this paper explores the contrasting views of community based range management that prevail in the two countries. It aims to reveal the social and economic tensions that exist between social fencing approaches and metal fencing approaches, and to highlight the different perceptions of governance and institutional roles that result from the two countries' political experiences over the 20th century. This comparative discussion should yield policy lessons for both countries, and the wider region. "The Drakensberg escarpment separates two very different experiences of governance and resource management in these two areas. In southern Lesotho, chiefs continue to play a strong role in local government and natural resource management. Cattle, sheep and goats still play an important role in local livelihoods. Livestock are herded by boys and young men. Grazing areas, demarcated by natural features or beacons, are unfenced. They are opened and closed by the chiefs sitting in council with senior men of the community, who also punish infringements of local range management rules. Like their Xhosa-speaking neighbours in the former Transkei homeland area of the Eastern Cape, Basotho have suffered heavily from stock theft over the past decade. Each side blames the other for most of this crime and violence. In the former Transkei, local governance and land management were perverted and distorted by the 'betterment' resettlement and planning programme of the apartheid era. This programme divided grazing lands into fenced camps that were administered by government in association with officially approved headmen. Herding of livestock has become uncommon in these areas, where most of the 'betterment' grazing fences have now disappeared and where governance has become increasingly uncertain since the advent of democracy in 1994. Many people in these communal areas of the Eastern Cape look back to the comparative order and good management of the 'betterment' era with nostalgia, and are calling for government to restore the fences. There is little prospect in these areas of the social fencing that comparatively vigorous local governance in Lesotho continues to enforce--although the future of these Basotho institutions is uncertain too."

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