To Have and to Hold: Continuity and change in property rights institutions governing water resources among the Meru of Tanzania and the BaKgatla in Botswana; 1925-2000

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Allocation, control, and management of natural resources are issues that absorb researchers within both the social and natural sciences. This study deals with such research questions as well as with one of the most fundamental issues in Economic History – namely institutional change. The plot is set around continuity and change of property rights institutions governing water resources. The settings are two Sub-Sahara African communities, the Meru of Tanzania and the BaKgatla in Botswana. The period of investigation extends from 1925 to 2000. In order to successfully reconstruct, understand, and unravel the plot, four fundamental propositions are made. First, that both formal and informal institutions have to be recognised since their status in relation to one another is not self-evident. Second, that material resources, existing institutions, and power relations are considered to be equally important factors influencing the institutional structure, which means that the economy is part of an open social context. Third, that a historical perspective is necessary to explain the nature of present institutions as their characteristics depend on developments in the past. Finally, that more investigations, conducted from a grass-root level perspective, are needed to increase our knowledge of the logic underlying existing property rights institutions in the Sub-Saharan region. Based on these propositions a framework for analysing institutional change is presented, guided by aspects of orthodox institutional theory and extending on the later writings of Douglass North. The two cases have been selected to represent relevant historical trajectories and are used to demonstrate the given theoretical argument and the validity of its inferences. The empirical material deals with both formal and informal institutions, starting of with a reconstruction of the development of legislation and national policy in the two countries. It continues with primary data that has been collected during extensive fieldwork among subsistence farmers, showing how property rights institutions are shaped by small-scale African farmers’ strategies to obtain economic security through investments in local social networks.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Economic History
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2003 Sep 29
Print ISBNs91-22-02032-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2003-09-29
Time: 10:15
Place: Crafoordsalen, Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Berry, Sara
Title: Professor
Affiliation: History Department, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History


  • institutional change
  • Botswana
  • institutions
  • Kgatleng
  • Meru
  • natural resources
  • property rights
  • Tanzania
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • water
  • Social and economic history
  • Ekonomisk och social historia


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