ProSuLi: Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods in Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) through Social-Ecological System Health

Alexandre Caron
Published: 12 April 2023
Last edited: 12 April 2023
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Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) were created to achieve the promotion of biodiversity conservation and better living conditions for local residents. The ProSuLi project engaged with four communities living in two TFCAs in three countries (Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) to identify, co-design, implement and monitor interventions that could improve and diversify livelihoods and manage natural resources.The approach was transdisciplinary, demand-driven and fully participatory, as the project activities were designed by TFCA residents, promoting more environmental justice. The project’s hypothesis was that collective action supported by targeted capacity building and co-designed governance systems could benefit of the whole social-ecological system.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Access and benefit sharing
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Health and human wellbeing
Indigenous people
Land management
Local actors
One Health
Protected and conserved areas governance
Sustainable livelihoods
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
One Health
Biodiversity-health nexus
Good governance of landscapes
Health related aspects of socio-economic factors such as poverty, education, social security structures, digitalisation, financing systems, human capacity development 
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of food security
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of technical capacity
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans


Ward 15, Chiredzi District, Zimbabwe | Mozambique, Botswana
Mangalane communal land, Moamba district, Mozambique
Ward 15, Hwange District, Zimbabwe
Eastern Panhandle, Okavango Delta, Botswana


The designing a transdisciplinary project in which the final beneficiaries co-design everything including academics’ principles and the implementation of the project outputs with all stakeholders, because it demands embracing more complexity and courses of action that are not ‘simple solutions’.

Understanding the difference between ‘technical innovation’ and ‘process innovation’ and why the former needs the latter to succeed, especially for the sustainable use of natural resources.

Interventions should favour local knowledge and practices and/or promote the emergence of innovation by the local stakeholders as outside interventions are often met with sceptisism. 


Local communities in four areas close to protected areas, representing a heterogeneous group of people, characterized by their ethnic origin, political orientation and shared history.

How do the building blocks interact?

The design of the intervention is crucial: it needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the local context .

Time and resources will need to be negotiated with the donor and the other actors of the project, including the final beneficiaries.

In order to implement a transdisciplinary project, experienced specialists of: transdisciplinarity, skills in participation and facilitation and young professionals are needed.

If the project aims at improving people's livelihoods or well-being, don't impose activities or interventions, that might have a low probability of success. Beneficiaries know best what they need. 


The project’s starting point was the observation of an imbalance between conservation and local development initiatives, and the need to change how wicked problems in TFCAs were tackled.

ProSuLi  empowered and capacitated TFCA residents to become more proactive in the decisions relating to their livelihoods and in the management of natural resources on which they depend. 

The ProSuLi multistakeholder approach involved all willing local stakeholders, including governmental services, local NGOs and private actors in order to create a space for communication and negotiation of shared concerns.

By communicating honestly about the project approach, lesson learned, outputs and expected outcomes, we hope to sensitize decision makers and donors to the paradigm shift necessary to promote healthy landscapes at the nexus between conservation and local development.


Alexandre Caron

Priscilla Maphosa lives with her family in Samu village in Ward 15, Chiredzi district, Zimbabwe. Her place is semi-arid, prone to drought and maize production fails more and more often, challenging food security. She live sin the Great Limpopo TFCA, close to Gonarezhou National Park.

She was active during the ProSuLi participatory process that led to the creation of an irrigated garden associated with a solar-powered borehole in Samu. The project had no pre-defined activities in order for local actors to decide themselves what could be good for their livelihoods. And Priscilla and other women in Samu and Malipati villages wanted gardens.

After 2 years of production in the garden, she welcomed us in her kitchen. She is happy. Last year, she managed to sell a few extra bundles of vegetables that were produced in her garden line. With this, she bought 12 eggs of guineafowl. Since then, she has been producing more than 80 guineafowls and regularly sell them in the village market.

She says it changed the way she sees herself in her marriage and in the village: now, she can earn money and carry out projects. This very kitchen was completely upgraded thanks to her benefits! She also enjoyed beeing a member of the committee on governance an advocacy that empowered her as a woman. She has now new and larger projects with women from the irrigated garden.

As Priscilla and other women in the TFCA have better livelihoods, it means that the TFCA is on a sustainable path.

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Alexandre Caron French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD)