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Cavies - big potential in small livestock

Demand for improved cavies is growing in Cameroon and eastern DRC (© Felix Meutchieye)
Demand for improved cavies is growing in Cameroon and eastern DRC
© Felix Meutchieye

The value and potential of guinea pigs, also known as cavies, for nutrition and income generation in Africa's humid tropics has been highlighted in new research. Originally from South America, more than 1.5 million cavies are now being kept for home consumption and sale by rural and urban households in Cameroon and eastern DRC. According to project leader Felix Meutchieye, a specialist in animal production systems at Cameroon's Dschang University, the cavy population contains sufficient genetic variation for effective selective breeding, and demand for improved animals is now growing.

In post-conflict areas of DRC, the research team found that cavies have become an important component food security, and are used in small-scale trade and bartering. In Cameroon, sizeable cavy-based businesses now exist, with female farmers in particular engaged in large scale production for supply to restaurants and larger markets, including for export. For poorer families, cavies can quickly be converted into cash for urgent purchases. They also provide rich and well priced manure for vegetable production and an ecosystem-friendly alternative to bushmeat, helping to preserve forest biodiversity. According to Meutchieye, cavies - like other neglected and underutilised animal species - have the potential to make a substantial contribution to poverty alleviation and food and nutrition security in the region.

Date published: November 2013


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