Tuesday 6
Perceptions of change
Martine Antona
› 11:30 - 12:30 (1h)
Perceptions on trade-offs between development outcomes along the Okavango river
Thomas Falk  1@  
1 : University of Marburg

The Okavango basin is one of the last near pristine aquatic ecosystems on the African continent. Significant population growth increases the demand for water for human consumption and irrigation. Increasing water extraction threatens the huge freshwater swamp of the Okavango Delta hosting an enormous biodiversity carrying globally relevant aesthetic and existence values. Alternative development pathways are expected to cause different environmental, economic and social outcomes. Trade-offs for each option vary between interest groups and up-stream resource use causes significant externalities for down-stream farmers or tourist operators.

The presented research assesses the preferences of local resource users up- and down-stream the Okavango river for different hypothetical development outcomes. Based on a review of policy documents and stakeholder discussions six main outcome attributes were identified as being most important. They are 1) changes in water quality and quantity; 2) changes in grazing availability; 3) changes in wildlife numbers; 4) changes in size of forests; 5) changes in employment opportunities; and 6) changes in public infrastructure. The preferences for different levels of the attributes are assessed using a conjoint measurement experiments. The attributes have been graphically illustrated and respondents ordered pictures with combinations of expected outcomes. The study was carried out with random samples in one settlement in upstream Namibia (N=204) and one settlement in downstream Botswana (N=273).

The results of the experiments provide evidence that high water quality and quantity is perceived to be of higher importance in the down-stream settlement in Botswana than in up-stream Namibia. At both sites the water attribute was perceived to be the most important development outcome. It excels even the economic development attributes of employment and infrastructure development. This is the more surprising as salaries account for approximately half to the average household income of the samples. Correlation analyses even reveal that respondents who more strongly depend on ecosystem services for their livelihoods are less concerned about the quality and quantity of the available water. Older and less educated people have a lower preference for clean and sufficient water.

The results have high policy relevance. Even on the local level, benefits from the river system are perceived to be higher down-stream than up-stream. At the same time, up-stream communities' water management strongly affects the state of the water system. The results should encourage the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) in its ongoing efforts to coordinate the Okavango Basin management.

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