The value of bushmeat and other wild foods to rural households living in extreme poverty in Democratic Republic of Congo

de Merode, E.
Homewood, K.
Cowlishaw, C.
January 2004

We examine the relationship between poverty and the use of wild foods, namely bushmeat, fish and wild plants, within a Congolese agricultural community. A sample of 121 households were monitored over a 16-month period, using a combination of participatory and quantitative survey techniques, to assess their wealth and their production, consumption and market sales of wild foods. Households varied in wealth but all could be considered subject to extreme poverty (income below US$1 per capita per day). Our analyses indicate that wild foods play a small role in household consumption but a major role in household income. Hence, over 90% of both bushmeat and fish production is sold at market. In addition, the value of wild foods increases in the “lean season” when agricultural production is low. We also find that the poorest households in this community are unable to capitalise on the most valuable wild foods, bushmeat and fish, as a source of food or cash income. We use an entitlements framework to explain the factors that determine such wealth-related variation between households, indicating that household use of wild foods is determined more by social and economic constraints than by resource abundance in this community. Nevertheless, our findings show that overall the small-scale commercialisation of wild foods provides a vital source of income for rural households living in extreme poverty.

Publication type: 
Journal Article
Source name: 
Biological Conservation
Page numbers: 
pp. 573-581
Elsevier Science Ltd, UK
Poverty-Environment Linkages
Market-based Approaches
Case study

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