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What’s gender got to do with it? Bush meat consumption in the Congo Basin

CIFOR presents new findings at the IUFRO-FORNESSA Africa Congress.
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NAIROBI, Kenya (18 July, 2012)_While bush meat consumption as a driver of deforestation has received international attention, understanding the roles played by women and men in the consumption of wild terrestrial or semi-terrestrial animals will be vital if the trade is to continue sustainably, said a CIFOR scientist at a recent conference.

“ To develop alternative measures that will bring bush meat hunting to a sustainable level, it is imperative to understand the complex socio-economic and cultural drivers of the bush meat hunting, trade, and consumption particularly the roles of men and women who are involved for different reasons”, said Robert Nasi, CIFOR Scientist and Leader of the CGIAR Research Programme on Forest, Trees, and Agroforestry, at the first Africa Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) and the Forestry Network for sub-Saharan Africa (FORNESSA).

Previous CIFOR research has found that meat from wild terrestrial or semi-terrestrial animals, termed bush meat is a significant source of animal protein in the Central African countries, and a crucial component of food security and livelihoods in rural and urban areas.

Despite the increasing international attention to bush meat with available information on its harvest, trade and consumption, there is a limited understanding of the complex socio-economic and cultural situations that drive the phenomenon.

The findings presented at the IUFRO-FORNESSA Africa Congress are part of forthcoming CIFOR research co-authored by Nathalie Van Vliet from the University of Copenhagen on the roles and contributions of men and women in the hunting, trade, and consumption of bush meat within the value chain.

“Women are increasingly involved in the bush meat value chain as retailers, wholesalers, restaurant owners, and consumers. In some cases, they are even directly involved in hunting which is generally considered a man’s activity,” Nasi said.

Expounding on the gender dynamics of the bush meat trade and consumption, Nasi, who is also one of the authors of “The Forest of the Congo Basin: State of the Forest 2010”, said that “While men hunt bush meat to build financial capital to marry and engage in other social activities such as drinking, women are more likely to use proceeds from bush meat trade to take care of their families and meet other basic needs.”

In terms of consumption patterns, Nasi also highlighted gender differences. “Most of the men interviewed readily mentioned gorilla as their favourite bush meat while the majority of the women said they preferred elephant meat. We also discovered that men eat more bush meat than women”.

There are also taboos around bush meat consumption for men and women. Specific animals are hunted depending on marital status and age. For instance young women and men do not consume yellow-back duiker because it would prevent them from having suitors, hence they are reserved for married couples and the elderly.

Over all, the bush meat trade chain is gender-balanced with women and men involved for various reasons. For Nasi, an in-depth knowledge of these gender dynamics is key to developing a sustainable solution to bush meat hunting and its trade in the Congo Basin.

“Appreciating the kinds of meat that regional people value and why, is crucial for developing effective policies and strategies,” said Nasi.

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