Business News of 2014-07-24

Bush meat – A dying business

In the next five to twenty years, some of our bushmeat delicacies will be no more if the current rate of bush meat hunting and eating goes on. About 384,000 metric tons of bushmeat valued at $350 million is harvested annually, conservationists say.
"At the rate we are going, in twenty years, most of the animals will be gone," says Okyeame Apadu-Agyei, Country Director of Conservation International, an environmental conservation NGO.
Akrantie (Thryonomys swinderianus), popularly known as the ‘grasscutter’ or cane rat, is indigenous to Africa and inhabits mainly western, southern and some parts of eastern Africa.
In Ghana, bush meat is relished by most people and akrantie is often their favourite choice. Fire is used as one of the means of hunting, and this often leads to bushfires resulting in the destruction of the ecosystem.
Hence, there is a need for domestication of akrantie to avoid the negative consequences of hunting. Domestication of akrantie started a few decades ago and since then very limited studies have been conducted, especially with regards to genetics.
But under its UNESCO livelihoods project, A Rocha Ghana is working around Lake Bosomtwe to train communities in Grasscutter rearing. This was chosen as one of four alternative livelihood sources because Grasscutters are a delicacy for most people in Ghana and a good source of protein.
The traditional method of hunting the animals is to start bushfires to scare them out into the open. Therefore, encouraging farmers to rear their own as micro-livestock helps to reduce the incidence of these fires and conserve wildlife in the area.
Grasscutters are also prolific breeders and may bear young twice a year. The average litter size is 4-6 young, and the mating ratio is 1 male to 4-10 females depending on population size. The feed is relatively affordable too, as they eat most things, including grass.
A Rocha Ghana is rearing Grasscutters to raise funds for its conservation programs and also encouraging secondary schools involved in its Climate Steward’s tree-planting projects, to introduce them too. One example is Nsutaman Senior High School, which now has a 10 hectare tree plantation and rears Grasscutters to supplement the school’s protein supply.
Like guinea pig, the meat is of a higher protein but lower fat content than domesticated farm meat and it is also appreciated for its tenderness and taste. In the past this animal has been hunted extensively although, in the savanna area of West Africa, people have traditionally captured wild grasscutters and fattened them in captivity.
More recently, intensive production of grasscutters has been undertaken in Ghana and other countries such as Benin and Togo and agricultural extension services in Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Nigeria, Senegal and Zaire have also encouraged farmers to rear these rodents in rural and peri-urban areas.
Research carried out over the last two decades has allowed the selection and improvement of stock for captivity and much of the knowledge and techniques for grasscutter production has been determined from work carried out at the Benin-Germany cane rat breeding station, which was established in the mid-1980s. Practical information is now more readily available for farmers interested in grasscutter production but.
Unlike other rodent species, the high exploitation of grasscutters in the wild has not had a serious effect on its numbers. They have adapted easily to deforested areas and occur in close proximity to farmlands and people.
However, there are areas where the species has been over-hunted and savanna habitat is often at risk during the dry season from bushfires, which are lit during bush meat hunting expeditions.
Grasscutters are not the most prolific of rodent species but the high demand, attractive market price and the small amount of investment required makes grasscutters a suitable mini livestock activity for income generation in many parts of West and Central Africa.
Grasscutter is one of the most popular delicacies of people from the Southern part of Ghana. Locally, called ‘Akrantie’ it can be found on sale along the roadside or at the market, either fresh or smoked.
Soup with Akrantie is usually eaten with fufu.
Source: The Finder
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