Targeting practitioners

Why Eat Wild Meat? A new decision tool for better project design

By 13/08/2021

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We have developed a tool that will help conservation practitioners involved in designing wild meat alternatives projects to increase their impact by designing projects that better reduce pressure on wildlife while also meeting the food security needs of local people.

Why it’s needed

Wild meat (often called ‘bushmeat’) has been eaten in African communities for centuries. It is still a key source of animal protein and provides an important income for rural forest dwellers. However, current rates of hunting for consumption are often considered to be unsustainable, a major concern for both conservation and local food security. Today projects providing alternative foods to wild meat in rural areas are commonplace across West and Central Africa and are helping to curb unsustainable hunting, in particular for rare or protected species.

Given the renewed focus on the health and conservation implications of wild meat consumption, we expect an increase in the number of wild meat alternative projects. For these projects to succeed, however, the alternatives need to be available, accessible, and desirable. The ideal combination of those needs will vary dramatically from one location to the next, and there is no ‘guidebook’ to the preferences and drivers of wild meat consumption in each area. It is therefore critical to be able to accurately assess why communities eat wild meat in order to design interventions that can help improve sustainability and safety.

The decision support tool

A review of the factors associated with alternatives project success and failure, found that establishing clear communication channels between the project staff and the community is vital for the long-term success of the project. Good communication is needed to understand the local context by building on existing partnerships and expertise, as well as using participatory and rights-based approaches to explore local preferences. Doing so helps to ensure that no generic ‘one size fits all’ solutions are imposed on a community. The drivers of wild meat consumption and preference aren’t always obvious and can differ between villages at a landscape scale, and between individual people or households within a single village. A failure to communicate and understand local preferences could result in a loss of trust and participation by the community, meaning that the projects intended food security, livelihood and conservation objectives may fail.

The review found that staffing and funding for community support and training in new methods, getting access to materials, transporting and reaching suitable markets, and identifying appropriate and culturally acceptable activities are some of the issues associated with the failure of projects in the long-term. It’s so important to establish a process that the community is engaged in and supported to develop their own alternatives projects ideas, and through which project staff can identify and help to remove the possible barriers to participation early on. Genuine and respectful communication between project staff and the community is not only the right thing to do, but it is also crucial to provide the ongoing support required to help a project become self-sustaining.

Drawing on the lessons learned in the review, as well as our own on-the-ground research in rural Cameroon, the ‘Why Eat Wild Meat’ project has designed a decision support tool to help project staff think through the factors they will need to consider in the design phase of a project and learn why local people eat wild meat and what they really want from potential initiatives. The tool is aimed at conservation practitioners around the world who are involved in the design and implementation of wild meat alternatives projects in rural areas. It focuses on the early research and design phase of project development, and promotes the use of participatory research methods to explore local preferences in-depth, before any project implementation begins. It provides guidance to understanding consumer behaviour and drivers and sets out a participatory approach to help conservation practitioners to better design alternatives that meet their conservation goals while also being locally desirable.

The tool was a collaborate effort between IIED, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science  at the University of Oxford, Fondation Camerounaise Terre Vivante and The Conservation Foundation.

Disseminating and monitoring use

The tool is now available to download in English and French, with Spanish and Portuguese versions soon to follow. We are encouraging anyone involved in the design of alternatives projects to use it for their own work.

Dissemination of the tool has been through a variety of different avenues; a webinar as part of the IIED debates series (which you can watch on YouTube here); via the project partners social media channels, by writing news articles for the IIED project page, and by making direct contact with people who are involved in designing alternatives projects.

It’s really important to monitor the use of the tool as well as the impact the tool will have on the enhanced design of alternatives projects. We are looking for people to trial the use of the tool as they enter the design phase of an alternatives project. If that’s you, or you know of someone who may be interested, please get in contact (see profile below).

We are also carrying out an online survey to learn if and how understanding of food choice as a driver of consumption has changed as a result of the tool, and to gather feedback. The survey takes around 10-15 minutes to complete.

  • For government officials, donors and NGO staff and academics working in sub-Saharan Africa, please complete this survey.
  • For practitioners, including those involved in designing and implementing wild meat alternatives projects (commonly referred to as alternative protein or alternative livelihoods projects) in sub-Saharan Africa, please complete this survey.

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