Research Article: Roads and livelihood activity choices in the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, Tanzania

Date Published: March 8, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Solomon Zena Walelign, Martin Reinhardt Nielsen, Jette Bredahl Jacobsen, Never Muboko.


Road development is occurring at an unprecedented rate in important conservation areas in tropical countries with limited understanding of how local people will adjust their livelihood activities in response. We use a discrete choice experiment to explore the effect of road development on respondents ex-ante preferences for changes in livelihood activities—crop and livestock production, hunting and trading bushmeat, and business and wage employment—under different incentives—provision of loans, livestock and crop extension services–in scenarios with reduced travel time to nearest district town in the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem in Tanzania. We test four hypotheses about the effects of roads with opposing implication for conservation. Hypothesis 1 predicts that increased market access will lead to intensification of crop and livestock production activities (achieved through extension services and loans), and Hypothesis 2 that market access will facilitate the development of non-farm Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) providing new livelihood opportunities (e.g. business income and wage employment)–both reducing environmental pressure. Hypotheis 3 on the other hand predicts that improved market access will lead to extensification and expansion of crop and livestock production activities, while Hypotheis 4 suggests that it will encourage exploitation of environmental goods (here in the form of hunting and trading bushmeat and illegal grazing inside protected areas)–both increasing environmental pressure. We find increasing preferences for more cropland and more cattle as travel time to market is reduced but no preference for increased allocation of household members to hunting and trading bushmeat supporting hypothesis 3 while contradicting hypothesis 4. However, second-order effects might support hypothesis 4 as we find aversion towards decreasing effort invested in hunting and trading bushmeat. Preferences for increased cropland and livestock may furthermore interact to increase land use change and illegal grazing inside protected areas. Crop extension services had a negative modifying effect on preferences for more cropland (supporting hypothesis 1) while livestock extension services had a positive modifying effect on preferences for more cattle (contradicting hypothesis 1). Providing loans had a negative modifying effect on preferences for increasing cropland and number of cattle. Marginal rates of substitution suggest that 950,000 TSH borrowed at a 10% interest rate will reduce preferences for more cropland and cattle by 11.8 and 38.4% respectively. Crop extension services reduce preferences for more cropland by 27% whereas livestock extension services increase preferences for more cattle by 104%. Contradicting Hypothesis 2, we found no preference for increasing the number of households members engaged in business and wage employment in response to reduced travel time. Targeted efforts to increase the educational level as well as entrepreneurship skills in the GSE could promote engagement in the labour market and development of business enterprises diverting focus from traditional activities such as farming and livestock production and hence reducing pressure on the ecosystem.

Partial Text

Rural households in developing countries rely on surrounding ecosystems to provide a variety of services (incl. water, firewood, timber, medicine, grazing, and wild food) essential to sustain their livelihoods [1–3]). Growing human populations, expected to quadruple this century [4], and their livestock in communities adjacent to protected areas increase the pressure on environmental resources, negatively affecting conservation objectives [5–10]. The poor tend to rely more on ecosystem services [1,11] and may thus suffer disproportionate deprivation from depletion of environmental resources. Infrastructural development extending roads into remote rural areas is proposed to reduce poverty by facilitating market integration and growth of non-farm Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) [12]. Consequently, road expansion is occurring at an unprecedented pace in developing countries extending into remote areas harbouring ecosystems with high biodiversity conservation value [13]. However, according to some observer’s risks are often not adequately assessed and roads may instead cause environmental, economic and socio-political problems [13–16].

We assessed support for four hypotheses with diverging effects of road construction and upgrading and opposing conservation implication in the GSE based on choice experiments revealing respondents’ preferences and trade-offs among livelihoods activities. Overall almost all respondents prefered extensification existing traditional livelihood strategies converting more land to cropland and a larger increase in the number of cattle with reduced travel time. Hence, the analysis provides strongest support for Hypothesis 3 indicating that respondents believe that improved access to markets will enable them to market their crop and livestock products more profitably and that they as a result plan extensification of these means of production. This expansion is traded-off against household members allocated to wage employment and involvement in MSMEs and to hunting and trading bushmeat for which there is no preference for increase (contrary to Hypothesis 2 and 4). The lack of preference for engagement in employment and business markets is surprising, and the observed aversion towards reducing the number of household members engaged in hunting suggests that second order outcomes may yet lean towards the scenario in Hypothesis 4. The strong preferences for more cropland and cattle may furthermore interact to increase ecosystem pressure through land use change, overstocking and illegal grazing inside protected areas. Provision of low-interest loans and extension services may modify preferences to reduce the impetus for land conversion and increased livestock production (driving towards Hypothesis 1) but only to a limited extent. Education programs and strategic efforts to facilitate the development of MSMEs that are aligned with conservation goals and take advantage of the large tourism income potential in the GSE may have larger effect and may ultimately provide other means and more profitable investment options than cattle.




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