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Can Notions of Common Property and the Common Good Survive? The Consequences of Classical Economics for Karamojong Nomadic Pastoralists

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Knighton, Ben
Conference: Survival of the Commons: Mounting Challenges and New Realities, the Eleventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Conf. Date: June 19-23, 2006
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/831
Sector: Grazing
General & Multiple Resources
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
common good
land tenure and use
public goods and bads
Karamojong (African people)
Abstract: "Despite the attempt of the Government of Uganda to grant private land titles in Karamoja, communal grazing rights are very much perpetuated by traditional politics and religion in Karamojong culture. Far from being in decline, the pastoralist range management system is in expansionist mode with more livestock and more herders than ever before. However this system is a threat to the new world order for three reasons. It is inimical to capitalist development as the Karamojong are most reluctant to commoditize their wealth in cattle or to cut themselves off from cattle- based livelihoods and values. They carry small arms to protect their herds and sometimes to acquire cattle from their enemies. They do not subscribe to national or international goals of economic development, refusing a sedentary lifestyle compatible with Ugandan norms of 'civilization', so that their continuing identity may survive with surprising autonomy. Basic to the discrepancy between local and Western notions of what is sustainable are different notions of livestock and space. Karamojong notions of freedom is the treasured right of each herd-owner or herder of a family herd to decide on a daily basis when and where herds should graze. This usually involves a 'tracking' strategy, seeking grazing areas with the optimum rainfall, nutrients, and minerals at any particular time. Any imposed restriction on grazing in order to protect pastures is regarded as a social threat. Western concepts of rangeland managements derive from the agrarian and industrial revolutions when British land tenure was transformed by enclosure, at great social cost, to ensure that there were private returns to investment to land, so that those who did not invest in land improvement did not suffer from the externalities of public benefits. Commons therefore came to be seen as threats to property and as public 'bads', standing in the way of progress including improved cattle breeding and productivity."

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