Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 481–492 | Cite as

Understanding Social Networks to Improve Adaptive Co-Governance with the ≠Khomani Bushmen of the Kalahari, South Africa

  • L. M. Mannetti
  • K. J. Esler
  • A. T. Knight
  • K. Vance-Borland


Adaptive co-management has been suggested as one way to enable sustainable management of common pool resources. A knowledge gap exists, however, in how different kinds of co-management structures relate to sustainable resource management and adaptability. Using a network approach we examine the issues of social capital, leadership and traditional knowledge and how these contribute to collective action at the community level. The current social structure of the ≠Khomani Bushmen community, South Africa, was assessed. Overall network cohesion was found to be low, which potentially impedes effective governance, while high fragmentation hampers the possibility of joint action. Individual characteristics, such as gender and ethnicity affect knowledge exchange, while a correlation was found between number of ties to central actors and perceived knowledge of how to use plants sustainably. The study offers insight into how traditional ecological knowledge, social capital and leadership affect possibilities for collective action and co-management of natural resources.


Collective action Social network analysis Plant resource use Traditional ecological knowledge South Africa 



The authors wish to thank the ≠Khomani Bushmen community, Kelly Scheepers and South African National Parks, the Southern Africa San Institute, Phillipa Holden and David Grossman, Peter Mokomele and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Joint Management Board for their support during fieldwork. Sincere gratitude goes to Eve Annecke and Candace Kelly of the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch, the Harry Crossley Foundation, Stellenbosch University and South Africa National Parks for institutional and financial support. ATK acknowledges the support of the Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decision (CEED) at the University of Queensland. The insights and contributions of the reviewers are also acknowledged.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. M. Mannetti
    • 1
  • K. J. Esler
    • 1
  • A. T. Knight
    • 2
    • 3
  • K. Vance-Borland
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Conservation Ecology and EntomologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesImperial College LondonAscotUK
  3. 3.Department of BotanyNelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa
  4. 4.The Conservation Planning InstituteCorvallisUSA

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