At home with the hunters: Intimate visions of the wild meat trade in Gabon and Madagascar

Virtual exhibition depicts work to make wild meat value chains sustainable
, Wednesday, 17 May 2023

In Gabon’s Mulundu Department, two wild meat hunters with rifles on their backs push their way through large-leaved, deep-green bushes that reach to their shoulders, in search of hogs, duikers (forest antelopes), and porcupine in the dense-canopied, vine-strung forest. “Hunting helps me,” says Mesmin Boundembou. “When I hunt, I make at least 20,000 CFA francs [USD 34], which is already a lot. It allows me to buy petrol and soap.”

Inadequate regulations and a lack of formal rights to resources mean hunting is not providing the food and revenues that are so important to local communities. But, in collaboration with the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme, ten communities and over 300 hunters across the department have established hunting associations to collectively manage wildlife – and firm up their legal rights in the process.

Meanwhile, on the island of Madagascar, remote communities near the Makira Natural Park show off their fish ponds and poultry farms, which they’ve established as a means to reduce hunting pressures on local forests. In the village of Marovovonana on the edge of the park, solo mother Nirina Razafindravelo has boosted her income by breeding chickens so that she is able to support both her daughters.


“My greatest wish for my family and for the future is that hunting in the forest is no longer needed; that we can find goods and food in the village; and that I will also be able to help improve the lives of others,” she says.

These are some of the places, faces, and voices that feature in the latest 3D virtual exhibition by the SWM Programme, which works with governments and communities across three continents to create local wild meat chains that are legal, sustainable, and healthy.

   ©Brent Stirton/Getty Images for FAO, CIRAD, CIFOR, WCS

As the exhibition emphasizes, 10,000 years ago all of humanity depended on wildlife for food, and millions of people across the globe continue to do so. Now, though, hundreds of wildlife species are facing extinction, partly due to demand for wild meat – which is increasing in many urban areas as populations increase. Growing contact between humans and wildlife, as habitats fragment, is also increasing the likelihood of zoonotic disease transmission.

Taking all of the above into account, the SWM Programme aims to improve how wildlife hunting is regulated, strengthen management – including by bolstering local communities’ rights to these resources as required –, increase the supply of sustainably farmed meat and fish, and reduce wildlife consumption in towns.

   ©FAO/Thomas Nicolon

Now, it’s time to share some of these stories, says David Mansell-Moullin, the SWM Programme’s Communication Coordinator. “The idea for a 3D virtual exhibition came to mind during the COVID pandemic when it became impossible to host physical in-person exhibitions,” he says. “We wanted to create a beautiful, fresh, and easy-to-navigate virtual space to show the amazing photographs taken by international award-winning photographers that we had contracted to document our SWM Programme work.”

The immersive, gallery-like exhibition platform was launched at the GLF Africa digital conference in September 2022, and two new exhibition rooms – featuring images by renowned photojournalists Brent Stirton and Rijasolo from Gabon and Madagascar – were opened on 27 April this year.

“We will relaunch the 3D exhibition in 3-4 months’ time with a new theme and country,” says Mansell-Moullin, “and will complement the virtual exhibition with a stunning (and easy to transport) physical exhibition that will tour many of the countries where we work – watch this space!”

The SWM Programme in Guyana is part of an initiative from the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), funded by the European Union with co-funding from the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the French Development Agency (AFD). It is being implemented by a dynamic consortium of partners that includes CIFOR-ICRAF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). Its aim is to improve food security and the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife in forest, savannah, and wetland environments in 15 countries.

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