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Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)

Livelihood change in the context of community conservation, Chobe, Botswana

PI: Lin Cassidy (, Okavango Research Instiitute, University of Botswana
U.S. Partner: Andrea Gaughan, University of Louisville
Project Dates: May 2021- January 2024

Project Overview:
This research investigates conditions within a community conservation area (CCA) in a southern African savanna area. CCAs with tourism partnerships (cf Naidoo et al 2016) are touted as a mechanism to support alternative livelihoods and reduce vulnerability while increasing wildlife protection in a landscape. Yet the claim of CCAs effectively supporting adaptive capacity (AC) is tenuous. Revenue is mostly returned at the community level, while economic variation occurs at the household level, where costs of living with wildlife differ according to land and natural resource use—a challenging scale mismatch (Blaikie 2006). Within rural communities, socioeconomic conditions are not homogeneous, and aggregate descriptions may not be representative of all households (King & Peralvo 2010). It is important to investigate alternative vulnerability models to capture the sources of AC and resilience, while allowing for agency within decision-making.

This study assesses changes in socioeconomic conditions in the same communities over time—a rare opportunity for longitudinal research on rural household vulnerability (Alobo Loison 2015, Fawcett et al 2017). In addition to the theoretical insights, this quantitative study expands the application and explores the validity of the sustainable livelihoods framework approach in an understudied, semi-arid African context (Alobo Loison 2015). The study also tests if linking different capital types (ibid) to concepts of AC and vulnerability can provide a link between context-specificity and generalizable principles (cf. Perz 2007, Gaughan et al 2019). Because the initial sample was both statistically randomized, and anonymous in a pre-GPS era, following up with the exact same household in the second survey was not possible, as would be the case for a panel study (cf Bhandari 2013). This precludes any causal inferences (cf Ferraro et al 2019) and limits the interpretation to broad, community-level patterns, rather than individual household change. Nevertheless, important trends and changes in demographics, livelihood patterns, and resource capital distributions can still be analyzed, and this is the level at which policy interventions are generally assessed.

The research will provide insights into a critical issue in southern Africa: how to accommodate the development and livelihood needs of communities that are tasked with sharing the landscape with wildlife in need of conservation. By providing insights into AC in rural communities, this research should inform several of USAID’s Southern Africa Mission objectives related to poverty alleviation, food insecurity, enhanced governance, and environmental sustainability.

Summary of Recent Events

In this reporting period, a potential graduate student has been recruited, and they have submitted their application to graduate school at the University of Botswana, for the Okavango Research Institute's MPhil in Natural Resources Management. The final evaluation committee has yet to sit this quarter.

The official Botswana Government research permit that was applied for in May has been approved and is valid for 2 years (until Oct 2023). Fortunately, due to delays in the Ministry of Environment, the permit was able to record both the PI and the prospective student's names, so that a second permit does not need to be applied for.

The prospective student has prepared a draft concept note, and has begun a structured literature review while the PI has begun analyses on the overarching research question - data outputs are actively being recorded in matrices.

In the next 3-6 months, the PI plans on getting the grad student's proposal further developed; arrange online training in statistics analysis for grad student; set up online 'workshop' with A. Gaughan and N. Pricope to brainstorm additional manuscript ideas and lastly, hold a seminar at the Okavango Research Institute to introduce the project and the grad student's proposal.

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