Evaluating dependence on wildlife products in rural Equatorial Guinea
Evaluating dependence on wildlife products in rural Equatorial GuineaSophie M. Allebone-Webb
A doctoral dissertation that analyzes the impacts of socioeconomic factors on the harvesting, consumption, and sale of bushmeat in Equatorial Guinea.
Dissertation Abstract: It is often stated that wildlife is extremely important to poor rural households, particularly in tropical forest regions, and many have proposed that rural populations depend on wildife. There is evidence that the harvest of forest products such as bushmeat is highly unsustainable, and so there is a need to assess this dependence on forest resources in order to evaluate the potential impacts to people following a reduction in forest offtake whether due to declining wildlife populations or to management. There is clear evidence that the use of forest products, including bushmeat, wild fish and forest plants, is widespread, but the more ambiguous term "dependence" is harder to demonstrate. I show that two rural villages in continental Equatorial Guinea consume, produce and earn significant amounts from wildlife resources, particularly bushmeat. I show that the consumption of wild foods, particularly plants, increases during the lean season, implying that wild plants reduce vulnerability to food shortages in times of stress, and are therefore important for food security. Production and income from wildlife is highest for poorer, food insecure households, and this represents a significantly higher proportion of their income than for the rest of the population, suggesting that these vulnerable households with few livelihood options rely on wildlife for regular income. The less accessible village is more food insecure and has fewer income sources, and is also more reliant on forest resources, particularly bushmeat for income.
Finally, I give evidence to demonstrate that monitoring sales of wildlife products in urban markets is a useful way to assess changes in offtakes. However, these markets may represent only a small fraction of the total harvest, and may underrepresent vulnerable taxa such as primates that have a relatively low price for their size. The data suggest that bushmeat harvest in continental Equatorial Guinea is likely to be unsustainable. This study has used a number of different approaches to explore dependence on wildlife in rural Equatorial Guinea, and I conclude that poorer families in the more remote village are indeed dependent on a range of wildlife resources, both for income and consumption. This must be taken into account in any policy responses to unsustainable harvests.
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