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  • COVID-19-led ban on wild meat could take protein off the table for millions of forest dwellers

COVID-19-led ban on wild meat could take protein off the table for millions of forest dwellers

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Young man hunting in the forest, Yangambi, DRC. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR
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FTA communications

Originally posted on Forest News

Lack of access to wild meat could result in hunger and malnutrition for local and Indigenous communities

Conservationists have greeted China’s recent clampdown on wild animal hunting and consumption with enthusiasm.

The government made the move based on scientific theories that COVID-19 was transmitted from a pangolin or a bat to humans in a market in the city of Wuhan.

A similar response to the capture and consumption of wild meat occurred during the Ebola outbreak, which originated in an animal-human interaction and raged in West Africa from 2014 to 2016. At that time, conservationists suggested the disease was good for wildlife because people would not be eating wild animals as a result.

The transmission of disease between animals and people is nothing new. Animals have been the vector of more than 60 percent of infectious diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also states that three of every four new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.

In the Middle Ages, plague, which is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, found in small mammals and their fleas, led to pandemics. Known as the “Black Death,” in the 14th century it caused more than 50 million deaths in Europe. The Spanish flu virus, which is thought to have originated in pigs, led to the 1918-1919 pandemic, killing an estimated 40 million people worldwide.

Diseases often jump from animals to humans, but become much more serious and have the potential to create pandemics when human-to-human transmission occurs.

How does this happen? The current focus is on wild fauna, but remember, as in the case of the Spanish flu, some of the deadliest diseases have been transmitted to humans not by wildlife, but by domestic livestock. For example, poultry sparked avian influenza and rodents led to the plague and cause hantaviruses.

First, transmission occurs when humans create contacts with wild fauna in places where none previously existed. In other words, humans “go” to the site of virus reservoirs.

Research into Ebola by a multidisciplinary team coordinated by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Spain’s University of Malaga and Britain’s Manchester Metropolitan University, into how wild animals, humans and natural landscapes interact, demonstrates that in large measure the problem is linked to deforestation and habitat degradation, which leads to environmental oscillations that enable the jump of diseases from animals to humans.

In a more recent study, the team showed that when bats in African rainforests are unsettled by humans, contact increases with people, likely influencing the spread of Ebola or other diseases carried by bats.

Second, transmission occurs when humans bring the reservoirs to their favored environments. For example, live animal markets or even pet trade sites — think psittacosis, also known as parrot fever.

The  global wildlife trade – whether legal or illegal – valued at billions of dollars, is also to blame for the spread of pathogens and infectious diseases resulting from the legal or illegal transport of animals or from selling them alive in markets in appalling conditions.

These two mechanisms of disease transmission from animals to humans are quite universal, even in the case of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

However, the solution to the problem must be more nuanced than an outright global ban.

If China’s example of outlawing hunting of wild animals is taken up by other countries, this could mean that millions of people – often the poorest rural and Indigenous communities – will not be allowed to access – through hunting or gathering wild animals – the only source of animal protein available to them.

Where no other protein is available, eating wild meat is a necessity, but it should be banned where there are alternatives and where profiteering from wildlife is the motive. Many urban consumers consider wild meat a luxury item, while others might buy it because they have migrated from rural areas to cities and they want to continue eating the food they traditionally consumed.

In very simple terms: nations should forbid the sale of live animals, close markets selling live animals, stop wildlife trafficking and stem the trade of wild animals from forests to cities.

By doing this, we help conserve wildlife in their habitats and enable communities to use this resource. Research shows that city dwellers do not rely on wild meat as the only source of animal protein, since other affordable sources of meat are available.

The interrelationship between wild meat consumption, food security and poverty alleviation must be explored simultaneously when making decisions without relying on an outdated colonial discourse of conservation that favors wildlife over people.

Rural and Indigenous communities who harvest wild meat sustainably as a source of dietary protein already face growing competition from deforestation, biodiversity loss, legal and illegal trade. We should not add to these increased risks of malnutrition or hunger.

Many tropical forests face “empty forest” syndrome – they are forests in good standing, but they are depleted of large animals because of overhunting, disease, the impact of climate change, deforestation and forest degradation.

To address unsustainable exploitation amid growing concerns about animal-human disease transmission, sound and locally-tailored policies must be developed and implemented.

CIFOR and the partners of the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme — which includes the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the French Agricultural Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the Wildlife Conservation Society — with support from the European Commission, are contributing to this effort through research-action, open consultations, working with communities to learn how to best protect the livelihoods and traditions of subsistence forest and rural dwellers and the landscapes they depend upon.

By Robert Nasi and John E. Fa

FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.


Access all FTA publications on bushmeat here.

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  • Estate Crops More Attractive than Community Forests in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Estate Crops More Attractive than Community Forests in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Authors: Langston, J.D.; Riggs, R.A.; Sururi, Y.; Sunderland, T.C.H.; Munawir, M.

Smallholder farmers and indigenous communities must cope with the opportunities and threats presented by rapidly spreading estate crops in the frontier of the agricultural market economy. Smallholder communities are subject to considerable speculation by outsiders, yet large-scale agriculture presents tradeoffs that they must navigate. We initiated a study in Sintang, West Kalimantan in 2012 and have returned annually for the last four years, building the baselines for a longer-term landscape approach to reconciling conservation and development tradeoffs in situ. Here, the stakeholders are heterogeneous, yet the land cover of the landscape is on a trajectory towards homogenous mono-cropping systems, primarily either palm oil or rubber. In one village on the frontier of the agricultural market economy, natural forests remain managed by the indigenous and local community but economics further intrude on forest use decisions. Conservation values are declining and the future of the forest is uncertain. As such, the community is ultimately attracted to more economically attractive uses of the land for local development oil palm or rubber mono-crop farms. We identify poverty as a threat to community-managed conservation success in the face of economic pressures to convert forest to intensive agriculture. We provide evidence that lucrative alternatives will challenge community-managed forests when prosperity seems achievable. To alleviate this trend, we identify formalized traditional management and landscape governance solutions to nurture a more sustainable landscape transition.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 2073-445X

Source: Land 6(1): 12

DOI: 10.3390/land6010012

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  • Forest use in Nicaragua: Results of a survey on gendered forest use, benefits and participation

Forest use in Nicaragua: Results of a survey on gendered forest use, benefits and participation

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Key results

  • Generalizations about gender and forests are misleading; detailed, comparative studies are needed to understand important contextual differences not only among world regions but also, as demonstrated here, within countries, among different cultures.
  • Gender biases lead men to underestimate women’s work related to forests and overestimate their benefits and role in decision making, relative to women’s own estimates.
  • In Nicaragua, forest resources, particularly firewood, are important for the vast majority of rural households studied; indigenous households, as well as indigenous women specifically, use and benefit from a much larger variety of forest resources than non-indigenous communities.
  • Of all the forest products mentioned by respondents, men extract more than women, except for craft materials in some locations.
  • Indigenous women are much more involved in the sale of forest products than non-indigenous women and are more likely to control the income from the products they sell.

Source: CIFOR Publications.

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  • Stronger rights for the commons: A new generation of challenges

Stronger rights for the commons: A new generation of challenges

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The Dayak indigenous people are fighting to regain their rights on their ancestral lands and regenerate the ecosystem of West Kalimantan’s Semenduk lake. Photo: Diah Tantri for GLF 2015 photo competition
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Nearly 20 years ago, in 1996, the Namibian government granted rights to wildlife—elephants, black rhino, lion and many species of antelope—to newly formed community conservancies. Now, Namibia has 82 of these community conservancies, covering 20 percent of its territory. These community conservancies have generated work for several thousand local residents and revenue from tourist lodges that goes to building schools and clinics. The environment is faring better too, as people have given up their livestock in favor of wildlife that are better suited to Namibia’s semi-arid environment.

Something similar happened in Guatemala in 1990, when the government created the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, and set aside about 40 percent of the reserve as community forestry concessions. The concessions have generated considerable income, primarily through the sales of sustainable high-value mahogany and teak. Rates of deforestation in these concessions have declined considerably.

These are two examples of initiatives that sought to build new commons institutions and enterprises—in short, they sought to connect locally produced goods and services to high-value markets.

And in both cases, local residents have reaped significant social, economic and environmental benefits.

This next generation of challenges is, quite clearly, no less daunting than that of earlier eras.

Steven Lawry


These cases exemplify the gains that some communities relying on communal forests and other natural resources in the developing world have made over the past 20 years in regaining a greater share of the use, management and other rights to those forests—areas that, during and after the colonial era, were held and administered by government agencies, often to the detriment of these communities.

Developing country governments tended to retain the colonial model of state ownership even after their countries gained independence. Where state regulation of timber extraction and development were weak, local people bore the environmental and social costs of land and watershed degradation. But they had little or no power to protect their local land and forests from encroachment by outsiders. Local rules for assigning resource rights lost force, and local institutional capacity for governing resource use often withered.

Community rights to resources in Indonesia

State regulation of forest use could also be aggressive and punitive. Local people could often use resources only if they managed to gain permission or paid fees. In some places, traditional uses of forests, such as subsistence hunting and collection of non-timber forest products, were criminalized. In several Sahelian West African countries, farmers had to secure permits to cut down trees they had planted on their own farms. The result: fewer trees planted.

In general, then, the progress made over the past 20 years shows how tenure security and clarification of rights can create conditions for better management of resources, for attracting outside investment, and for the more equitable sharing of commons benefits.

This topic will be featured at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum.
View the event details


Yet we have now moved into what might be called the “next generation” of challenges in the management of common property resources: Communities have newly strengthened resource rights—but then what?

Because despite the gains, local resource governance arrangements tend to be fragile, and local enterprises tend to be weak. What’s more, progress in the devolution of rights has drawn attention to the persistent poverty in many communities reliant such commonly used resources as pastures, fisheries and water, wildlife and forests.

So at the top of the list of next-generation challenges is this: How to ensure that communities with newly strengthened resource rights can build strong local economies based on the sustainable use of local natural resources.

For a start, this will require new forms of local governance arrangements and local enterprises that are capable not only of bringing high-value local goods and services to markets, but of doing so in ways that provide fair benefits to local right holders. Intermediaries—sometimes NGOs—can be key to building local business acumen and brokering deals with outside enterprises and investors—which can also build trust among parties not accustomed to working together.

We have now moved into what might be called the “next generation” of challenges in the management of common property resources: Communities have newly strengthened resource rights—but then what?

Steven Lawry

Also important is an understanding of how people’s ability to participate in commons enterprises can vary according to their age, education, gender, health and other social and demographic factors. An appreciation of these differences, and how they manifest in power dynamics, can help build safeguards against elite capture of commons enterprises and fashion benefit-sharing arrangements that ensure all right holders get a fair share of the benefits of commons ownership.

This next generation of challenges is, quite clearly, no less daunting than that of earlier eras.

Exploring solutions is part of the aim of the panel discussion on “Commons Tenure for a Common Future,” at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum on Saturday 5 December. By identifying these issues and delving deeply into them, we can help common tenure lead to common benefits.

See the rest of the story at

Community rights to resources in Indonesia: A conversation
Climate isn’t everything … so welcome to the Global Landscapes Forum
‘Forgotten guardians’: Local communities in natural resource management

Source: Forests News English

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