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Culture in Sustainable Development Thinking: An Indigenous Water Management System, the Case of Borana (Oromo) People

Published in 2011, Gashe, Dessu Dulla, Thesis Collection - Archived on March 19th, 2012

Title: Culture in Sustainable Development Thinking: An Indigenous Water Management System, the Case of Borana (Oromo) People
Author: Dessu Dulla Gashe (Department of Social Science, Wageningen University, The Netherlands)
Published: Thesis Collection
Language: English
Keywords: indigenous, customary, statutory, scarcity, institutions, social organizations, power, authority, kinship, property rights, legal pluralism

Water is one of the precious natural resources required by human beings and other living organisms. The shortage of water sources has serious impacts in the developing world in general and pastoral areas in particular, because it traps the people of the region in the cycle of poverty by undermining economic development and health. Explicitly the pastoral groups of the Horn of Africa are severely suffering from the catastrophe. The Oromo people are one of the societies occupying the Horn. The Borana people are among the Oromo clans for whom pastoralism is a dominant way of life. As the pastoralists’ land is highly drought-prone, their livelihoods are extremely vulnerable to climate change led water scarcity and environmental degradation. A scarcity of the basic natural resources (water and pastureland) is the major problem both for the people and its cattle especially in an adverse climatic condition. Wells are the permanent water sources for the pastoral group and have a central position in the social, economic and politics of the Borana. A long-term consumption of natural resources is predominantly important for humans’ sustainability. A development explicitly interlinks with socio-economic, cultural and ecological issues of human societies. The arrangements of using scarce natural resources, like water, require robust management and conservation for present and future generations. Human societies deal a sustainability of resources use with multiple management laws and property rights arrangements. Legal pluralism deals with interdependent diverse legal forms that do exist in a society. Hence, this study aimed to explore the ways in which the Borana people have adjusted themselves to water source scarcity by analyzing its indigenous water harvesting knowledge, management institutions and property rights arrangements. It also analyzed the relevance and reliability of the plural legal forms exist in governance, property rights arrangements for a sustainable resource use and conflict resolution during adverse climatic conditions. This study pointed out that the Borana people have exercised a customary legal order that rooted to its culture to cope with social orders, social pressure and environmental limits. Traditionally, under the sprite of common property rights, a well is privately owned by a clan for which the inclusion/exclusion principles apply. Amid a harsh drought, the communities used to rely on wells that guided by an indigenous harvesting knowledge, management system, property rights arrangements and conflict resolution under the Gadaa institution for centuries. The effectiveness of these customary laws is based on the strong social networks across the clans, kinship, ready-made social structures, and power and authority vested on clan leaders and elders. But un-negotiated statutory laws and practices that introduced by other stakeholders are also visible in the Borana. The governments have developed a new resource management and property rights regulation laws and institutions. Climate change, political marginalization and population increase are the other factors that affect the effectiveness and efficiency of indigenous practices of the people.

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