Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods in TFCAs - ProSuLi

Last update: 9 April 2018

Supporting the long-term sustainable management of TransFrontier Conservation Areas in southern Africa (Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe) through a multi-stakeholder participatory process.

Dates: 2018-2021

Grant FED/2017/394-443

Context - TFCAs are socio-ecological systems

TFCAs are composed of complex socio-ecological systems. ProSuLi recognises fundamentally that TFCAs encompass a set of stakeholders (e.g. local communities, NGOs, local government, private sector, researchers) accessing unequally a resource system (i.e. African savannah’s natural resources) including various resource units (e.g. water, grazing, wildlife, wood) within a complex governance system (e.g. chieftainship, national government, international wildlife regulation). The success of TFCAs is necessarily rooted in positive stakeholders’ interactions  (local communities, NGOs, local & national governments, research institutions, technical institutions, private sector), recognising the legitimacy and importance of their respective positions, needs and constraints and the need for negotiations in order to achieve a shared common vision of a sustainable TFCAs.

Globally TFCAs fail to promote local development

Indeed, TFCAs have been defined, and endorsed at the highest level of states, as integrated development and conservation opportunities for remote and neglected transboundary areas. They are not defined as purely conservation-based initiatives even if conservation lobbies have historically triggered their creation. Hence, failing to promote the livelihoods of local communities within TFCAs means failing the intended TFCA objectives and endangering their sustainability. However, today in most TFCAs, the integration of conservation and local development objectives and activities is rather the exception than the norm. Conservation objectives prevail under the assumption that it is by promoting the conservation of wildlife populations and supporting the development of a wildlife economy that local development will automatically follow. This paradigm is flawed, as large human populations cannot source their livelihoods entirely from wildlife-based activities. By sticking to this paradigm, TFCAs miss a true opportunity to be at the forefront of a new way of conceiving the links between human well being, social and environmental justice and wildlife conservation – arguably the most sustainable model for the future. 

Maintaining inequality and a disequilibrium between stakeholders

Common pictures across TFCAs are that of frustrated local communities observing conservation NGOs spending most of their time and resources to protect wildlife, local government officials enforcing anti-wildlife crime regulation but failing to design and/or implement adequate benefit-sharing of natural resources and, a private wildlife sector generating profits without sharing equitably the benefits with other legitimate owners of the wildlife resource. In the meantime, “on the other side of the boundary”, local livelihoods struggle to make ends meet with limited and mostly undesirable development options, such as urban migrations, external work in mines or industrial farms and organised poaching. In addition, local communities are stigmatised by local, national and international governments, as well as conservation NGOs and global public opinion for their “negative” perceptions and behaviour towards wildlife including poaching, unsustainable use of natural resources and poor support of and/or interest in conservation; a situation that is surely undermining the success of TFCAs. Of course, there are exceptions and (few) success stories.

A general framework for the management of TFCA is needed

Globally, there is a lack of general framework for TFCAs to promote both development and conservation initiatives. This is however not about creating blue print solutions, as no unique/common solution will work across the complexity encountered in TFCAs, but it is about building processes that can lead TFCAs to achieving their objectives. TFCAs need improving the dynamics of collective action to address local development issues in order to provide local communities with a brighter future within the context of TFCAs. There is also a need to increase positive interactions between local stakeholders that have often defined their relationship over biodiversity conservation around conflicts and negative interactions in the past. We hope that by addressing these needs will allow for a paradigm shift in perceptions of local stakeholders towards each other and promote transformation towards a truly operational model for the sustainable management of TFCAs.

Objectives of ProSuLi

The ProSuLi project aims at promoting and strengthening the sustainable management of TFCAs through local development respectful of biodiversity conservation, by promoting a change in attitude from local communities towards TFCAs and a paradigm shift on their role in the co-management of TFCAs. The main objective of ProSuLi is to create or capacitate when already existing functional multi-stakeholder interaction processes in each site to sustainably manage TFCAs ”. Stakeholders’ interactions will be promoted through their enrolment in a participatory process to co-design, test and implement integrated local development and conservation management options. This means that once relevant stakeholders have been identified and are represented in a local multi-stakeholder group, a shared and accepted vision of the future of the socio-ecosystem can be discussed; priorities can be identified and management options and their monitoring can be co-designed and implemented. The activities will encompass sustainable agricultural and natural resource management activities and innovative strategies to mitigate human wildlife conflicts and illegal activities.

We don’t have the solution to ensure the sustainability of TFCAs, but we will test an option of collective management.

The ProSuLi consortium

ProSuLi is at the heart of the RP-PCP. The conceptual design of this project is the direct output of a process started during the FSP RenCaRe project ( on which was based the conference “Co-existing with(in) TFCAs: Local perspectives” ( The consortium includes all core members of the RP-PCP and associate the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique) and the Okavango Research Institute of the University fo Botswana (Botswana).

Last update: 9 April 2018

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