By Alex Peel
Cocoa farmers in West Africa are using bushmeat as a back-up source of food and income in times of hardship, according to new research.
The study, published in PLOS One, says conservation measures that restrict access to bushmeat through hunting bans and law enforcement may damage the livelihoods of rural communities.
'When rural societies move towards intensive cash cropping, they tend to damage ecosystems,' says Dr Björn Schulte-Herbrüggen, who led the research.
'But it's important to remember that rural communities rely on those ecosystems for income and food.'
'If we want to protect both wildlife and the livelihoods of these communities, they need to gain access to new and more diverse sources of income during the agricultural lean season.'
Across the tropical belt of Central Africa, bushmeat is often the main source of animal protein. But in West Africa, rural areas are more densely populated and economically developed.
It wasn't clear how important bushmeat is to those farming communities, many of which live in landscapes that have seen dramatic losses in wildlife from over-hunting.
Schulte-Herbrüggen spent nearly two years living with cocoa farming communities in Ghana, where he carried out 787 interviews, covering 63 households.
'This study is a very important part of my life,' he says. 'Poverty is a very nasty thing and when you live and work with people who experience it in that way, it has a very big impact on you.' More....