Using anticipation to unveil drivers of local livelihoods in transfrontier conservation areas: a call for more environmental justice.
Calling on the concept of environmental justice in its distributive, procedural and recognition dimensions, we implemented a coelaborative scenario building approach to explore sustainable livelihoods pathways in four sites belonging to two Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in southern Africa. Grounded on participation and transdisciplinarity, as a foundation for decolonised anticipatory action research, we aimed at stimulating knowledge exchange and providing insights on the future of local livelihoods engaging experts living within these TFCAs. Our results show that wildlife and wildlife-related activities are not seen as the primary drivers of local livelihoods, despite the focus and investments of dominant stakeholders in these sectors. Instead, local governance and land use regulations emerged as key drivers in the four study sites. The state of natural resources, including water, and appropriate farming systems also appeared critical to sustain future livelihoods in TFCAs, together with the recognition of indigenous culture, knowledge and value systems. Nature conservation, especially in Africa, is rooted in its colonial past and struggles to free or decolonise itself from the habits of this past despite decades of reconsideration. To date, the enduring coloniality of conservation prevents local citizens from truly participating in the planning and designing of the TFCAs they live in, leaving room for limited benefits to local citizens and often limiting Indigenous people's capacity to conserve. A practical way forward is to consider environmental justice as a cement between the two pillars of the TFCA concept, that is, nature conservation and socio-economic development of local or neighbouring communities, as part of a more broadly and urgent need to rethink the relationships between people in, and with, the rest of nature.