From local scenarios to national maps: a participatory framework for envisioning the future of Tanzania

Claudia Capitani, Kusaga Mukama, Boniface Mbilinyi, Isaac Malugu, Pantaleo Munishi, Neil D. Burgess, Philip John Platts, Susannah Sallu, Robert Marchant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tackling societal and environmental challenges requires new approaches that connect top-down global oversight with bottom-up subnational knowledge. We present a novel framework for participatory development of spatially explicit scenarios at national scale that model socioeconomic and environmental dynamics by reconciling local stakeholder perspectives and national spatial data. We illustrate results generated by this approach and evaluate its potential to contribute to a greater understanding of the relationship between development pathways and sustainability. Using the lens of land use and land cover changes, and engaging 240 stakeholders representing subnational (seven forest management zones) and the national level, we applied the framework to assess alternative development strategies in the Tanzania mainland to the year 2025, under either a business as usual or a green development scenario. In the business as usual scenario, no productivity gain is expected, cultivated land expands by ~ 2% per year (up to 88,808 km²), with large impacts on woodlands and wetlands. Despite legal protection, encroachment of natural forest occurs along reserve borders. Additional wood demand leads to degradation, i.e., loss of tree cover and biomass, up to 80,426 km² of wooded land. The alternative green economy scenario envisages decreasing degradation and deforestation with increasing productivity (+10%) and implementation of payment for ecosystem service schemes. In this scenario, cropland expands by 44,132 km² and the additional degradation is limited to 35,778 km². This scenario development framework captures perspectives and knowledge across a diverse range of stakeholders and regions. Although further effort is required to extend its applicability, improve users’ equity, and reduce costs the resulting spatial outputs can be used to inform national level planning and policy implementation associated with sustainable development, especially the REDD+ climate mitigation strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages33
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016, The Author(s).


  • coupled human-natural system; deforestation; ecosystem services; land use and land cover change; REDD+; sustainable development

Cite this