Dissonance in customary and statutory water management institutions: issues of cultural diversity in the management of water resources in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

  • Reniko Gondo
  • Oluwatoyin D. Kolawole
  • Joseph E. Mbaiwa


Customary institutions have existed in parallel with statutory institutions for many years in Africa. These traditional water management systems were employed to manage the use of water resources and resolve conflicts associated with them. Although national governments introduced conventional water management approaches, which operate more effectively in urban areas, customary institutions’ activities in water governance continue to exist in rural Africa. Long before the advent of colonialism, most rural communities which have now transformed into modern African societies had various rules, norms, taboos and values governing the use of water. Although not legally recognised in the wake of colonialism, the concept of legal pluralism has continued to gain ground in colonial Africa. Rooted in the mass–elite theory and the cultural lag concept, the paper adopts a critical literature review approach to explain the dissonance in customary and statutory water management institutions in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Analysis of existing water management documents revealed that the post-independence statutory water institutions continue to weaken the customary approach to water use and management. Findings indicate that statutory institutions emphasise on the economic conception of water despite the fact that the resource has also a social value. This absolute conceptualisation of water as an economic commodity creates the dissonance in water management, especially in rural areas and most especially in the Okavango Delta where water is still perceived to have cultural values.


Colonialism Customary Dissonance Institutions Legal pluralism Statutory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reniko Gondo
    • 1
  • Oluwatoyin D. Kolawole
    • 1
  • Joseph E. Mbaiwa
    • 1
  1. 1.Okavango Research InstituteUniversity of BotswanaMaunBotswana

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