Effective conservation requires that conservation policies and management decisions first target local actors who are dependent on natural resource use in Protected Areas (PA) of Developing Countries (DC). In rural areas of DCs, these actors are mainly farmers who also rely on off-farm activities such as harvest of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) to complement their livelihoods. Here, we propose a novel approach to support the development of policy interventions aimed at achieving conservation goals through the sustainable development of local people in PAs of DCs. The approach consists in identifying the main Livelihood and Farming Systems (LFS) and select those that are more conservation-friendly, and that may contribute to solve conservation and development problems such as Human-wildlife conflict. Identifying the existing LFS can also help in searching for conservation-relevant improvements that can contribute to local people wellbeing, considering the existing FS as the starting point for a sustainable development strategy in PAs of DC. Data from the Niassa National Reserve (NNR), the largest PA in Mozambique, were used to develop this LFS approach. Measures of effort applied in harvesting NTFPs and in managing agricultural inputs and outputs were collected from 329 households through a structured survey. Cluster analysis was performed to identify and characterise the main LFS in the NNR. Based on the cluster results, we have identified four livelihood systems (LS): gatherers, hunters, farmers and employees; four farming systems (FS): specialized in maize, rice and sorghum, and a mixed FS. A Multinomial Logistic Model was also applied to understand the drivers of LFS choice. Livelihood systems were mainly driven by household-level socio-economic factors, while FS were driven by village-level biophysical conditions. Households who were employed and had diversified farming and off-farm activities were better off and more resilient to climate change and crop-raiding animals. Intensification appears to occur gradually but has found to be limited by rainfall availability. Based on our findings, we propose that conservation experts and policy-makers should use a LFS approach to re-frame the conservation narrative in PAs of DCs and promote the existing practices that can better protect biodiversity while improving livelihood and welfare of local people.
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