Sub-Saharan countries have magnificent nature. However, currently human dominant landscapes are expanding due to population growth and agricultural and infrastructure development at the cost of wilderness. Savanna regions, covering vast areas of the continent has particularly high human population growth and high conversion to agriculture and pastures for livestock. People in these regions, to a high extent live of the ecosystem services the savanna provides.
The Tanzanian and Kenyan national economies are strongly dependent on income generated from tourism focusing on game viewing in their protected areas. However, the land surrounding the protected areas are under increasing anthropogenic pressure and sustainable development of the park surroundings is highly needed to protect wildlife and to avoid human-wildlife conflicts. From the perspectives of the communities, the costs of living close to wildlife dominated areas often outweigh the benefits and options for alternative and more sustainable livelihood strategies are few or poorly known and difficult to explore.
In the Savanna Life project researchers from the large Horizon2020 project AfricanBioServices collaborated with an Environmental Psychologist, a Political Scientist and a teacher in Natural Resource Management to develop the game Savanna Life. AfricanBioServices aimed at studying the linkages between humans and nature in the Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya. The initial purpose of the project was to develop a realistic game simulating the livelihood dilemmas of local communities for students in Natural Resource Management at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The game was made with the aid of a professional game designer and was then tested with local stakeholders in Tanzania and Kenya to validate its realism and with students in Norway. By recording and comparing game behavior between the students and local stakeholders, we further aimed to enable students to explore different game strategies.