Integrating stakeholders' perspectives and spatial modelling to develop scenarios of future land use and land cover change in northern Tanzania

PLoS One. 2021 Feb 12;16(2):e0245516. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245516. eCollection 2021.


Rapid rates of land use and land cover change (LULCC) in eastern Africa and limited instances of genuinely equal partnerships involving scientists, communities and decision makers challenge the development of robust pathways toward future environmental and socioeconomic sustainability. We use a participatory modelling tool, Kesho, to assess the biophysical, socioeconomic, cultural and governance factors that influenced past (1959-1999) and present (2000-2018) LULCC in northern Tanzania and to simulate four scenarios of land cover change to the year 2030. Simulations of the scenarios used spatial modelling to integrate stakeholders' perceptions of future environmental change with social and environmental data on recent trends in LULCC. From stakeholders' perspectives, between 1959 and 2018, LULCC was influenced by climate variability, availability of natural resources, agriculture expansion, urbanization, tourism growth and legislation governing land access and natural resource management. Among other socio-environmental-political LULCC drivers, the stakeholders envisioned that from 2018 to 2030 LULCC will largely be influenced by land health, natural and economic capital, and political will in implementing land use plans and policies. The projected scenarios suggest that by 2030 agricultural land will have expanded by 8-20% under different scenarios and herbaceous vegetation and forest land cover will be reduced by 2.5-5% and 10-19% respectively. Stakeholder discussions further identified desirable futures in 2030 as those with improved infrastructure, restored degraded landscapes, effective wildlife conservation, and better farming techniques. The undesirable futures in 2030 were those characterized by land degradation, poverty, and cultural loss. Insights from our work identify the implications of future LULCC scenarios on wildlife and cultural conservation and in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets by 2030. The Kesho approach capitalizes on knowledge exchanges among diverse stakeholders, and in the process promotes social learning, provides a sense of ownership of outputs generated, democratizes scientific understanding, and improves the quality and relevance of the outputs.

Grant support

This study was supported through the ‘Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC)’ project grant awarded to PJL (Principal investigator),RM and LKM (Co-investigators) under the Sustainability and Resilience - tackling climate and environmental changes programme funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), Sida and Formas (2016-06355). The URL of the funders website are: Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) -; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) -; Formas -