Researcher: Sónia Cristina Cardoso dos Santos Silva

Supervisor(s): Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues

Participant Institutions: PhD in African Studies

Keywords: frontiers, shared management, natural resources, mobility


Before colonial expansion and the establishment of African political boundaries, populations in certain geographic areas shared common spaces to produce the essentials for survival. What motivated the present investigation was the need to understand the transformations that have taken place since then. Notable feature in contemporary Africa, the study is focused on the generation of new cultural, political and socioeconomic dynamics, giving rise to new ways of managing cross-border natural resources at various levels. The investigation, based on a qualitative approach, focused on the situational and institutional case study, through semistructured interviews, direct observation and documentary and bibliographic research. The research question is: did the establishment of the southern Angolan border, specifically between the Angolan province of Cunene and the Republic of Namibia, have implications for the mobility of the population and the management of natural resources? It was intended to demonstrate the impact of the establishment of the southern border of Angola as well as to try to understand population mobility in access to water, land and pasture for cattle, as dimensions shared between the bordering peoples of Angola and Namibia in three different historical periods – pre-colonial, colonial and post-independence. Discussing the data through a triangulation logic between the approaches of previous researchers, the contents of the interviews carried out and the perspective of some consulted documents, we conclude that the establishment of the southern border did not prevent the mobility of populations despite some assumptions of mobility having been, tended to change, giving rise to several new agreements between the Angolan and Namibian states aiming at better management and the establishment of new local dynamics. In the pre-colonial period, land, water and livestock had a special significance for local African societies. Land ownership belonged to the tribe and water was used in community. The mobility of populations, in the border region, and the sharing of natural resources, was flexible. During the colonial period, there was greater control, with the imposition of restrictions on mobility in the border area. The management of resources, as well as population mobility, have undergone changes, but have not entirely prevented contacts between populations and their circulation. In the period after independence, the civil war in Angola imposed very deep restrictions on the circulation and management of resources, not only internally but also in cross-border terms. After the end of the war, new state political provisions aim at better border management, border mobility and resource management for both States, with the development of new informal dynamics at the same time among border populations. Thus, taking into account both continuities and transformations with regard to mobility and management of natural resources, the research shows that the mobility of people from one side to the other of the Angola-Namibia border continues, for example, to be determined by ethnic and family secular relations. On the other hand, aspects such as how border crossing is regulated or cross-border water management have been changed over the years.

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