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Hinz, M.O. 2013. Makongoro are the Hafumu of water and we respect them, or the ethno-philosophical foundation of customary water law in the Kavango Region of Namibia. In: Oldeland, J., Erb, C., Finckh, M. and Jürgens, N. (eds). Environmental Assessments in the Okavango Region. Biodiversity and Ecology, 5: 407–418


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Makongoro are the Hafumu of water and we respect them, or the ethno-philosophical foundation of customary water law in the Kavango Region of Namibia.

Summary / Notes:

Interviews on customary water law have been conducted within the framework of the TFO Project since March 2011. The research was meant to generate qualitative information on water, the Kavango River as the main source of water, but also locally pumped water or water provided by the Namibian public provider of water, NamWater. The intention of the of the (now completed) first phase of the research was to investigate the general perceptions of the people on water. The second (still ongoing) phase of the research looks at more specific matters, such as access to water, control of access, rules against pollution and rules to protect water etc. The purpose of this article is to present results of the first phase of the research, focusing on Ekongoro, the mythical figure that is widely reflected in the perception of water by the people in the research area. Who or what is Ekongoro? What is the social meaning of Ekongoro? Is there any legal rele-vance of Ekongoro? There is when taking note of what was stated by an interviewee: “Makongoro are the Hafumu of water– the Makongoro are the rulers of water - and we respect them”. The very special placement of Ekongoro shows that Ekongoro is part of a network of relationships that reaches from human connotation in the specific sense to humanised non-human and even supra-human connotations. What the narratives about Ekongoro convey is an important ingredient of a worldview which could inspire the worldview of western societies, even prompt to amend the dominant attitude in this worldview in accordance with which nature is an almost unlimited object of scientific and commercial exploitation. However and primarily concerned with societies in which the narratives about Ekongoro exist, the research has discovered a complex framework of arguments in the customary perception of water that stimulates questions on the role and function of this framework in the foundation of societal politics and law. Keywords: Customary water law, Ekongoro, protection of water, "ownership" of water, statutory law, sustainable use of water, worldviews and the ethno-philosophical foundation of customary water law.

Year: 2013

Type: Journal Article

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