This paper traces the emergence of traditional institutions from the pre-colonial times to the present, and draws a comparison with one fundamental principle of common property management: exclusivity of resource use. Evidence from Zimbabwe shows that traditional rules governing natural resources contradict this principle. The study suggests that the gap between traditional institutions and design principles for sustainable common property resource management can be bridged by making small continuous institutional changes over an extended period of time. It also recommends that longitudinal studies – based on historical precedent rather than contemporary narratives – and cross-sectional studies are required for informed policy decision-making in order to transform traditional institutions.
African Studies Quarterly