News from the Cavy Project and beyond

International Symposium on Cavies: Proceedings are available - November 2017

For the first time, representatives from South America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru) and sub-Sahara Africa (Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania) met in an International Symposium on Cavies in Yaoundé, Cameroon in July 2016. To foster South-South partnership development and knowledge exchange, the symposium provided a forum for various stakeholders from research, government, NGOs and farmer associations.
The proceedings of this symposium are now available online.

Cavy project in Bolivia continues and aims at South-South collaboration with an African country - November 2017

World Vision USA has announced that the project ‘Integrating poor producers into the value chains of: Guinea pigs, laying hens and sheep, through the production, organization and its linkage to key players’ in Bolivia will enter into a second 3-year phase from October 2017 onward.
The project purpose is: 'To increase the economic capacity of producers who are poor to provide well for their children' through the achievement of two outcomes
  • O1. To improve the production and value added of producer groups; and
  • O2. To improve the linkages of producers, with markets, service providers and other key players.
The project aims at improving livestock production so as to generate cash income for smallholder families of Bolivian Valleys. In its 2nd year, the project also considers to connect with an African country in order to transfer technology and knowledge from South to South.

Further information is available from Angel Reyna (angel_reyna (at) wvi (dot) org).

Cavies for reducing bushmeat hunting - September 2017

In the Kivu region of eastern DR Congo, a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) project is funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID) under the Darwin Initiative since 2016, to help reduce the reliance on bushmeat hunting by mining communities around Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP), a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, through improving cavy production: "Guinea pigs as guinea pigs, reducing bushmeat hunting while improving communities’ wellbeing"; read more on the project.

ILRI is searching to complement this project with a new proposal that has been submitted to the Darwin Initiative, too, in September 2017: "Cavy value chains for mitigating bushmeat consumption and promoting livelihoods".

Cavy culture reported from Benin - August 2017

For the first time, a survey has been conducted on cavy culture in Benin. A.M.L. Faihun and colleagues from the Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques of the Université d’Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou, Bénin have published an article on the typology of cavy husbandry in Benin. Read more

Opportunity for South-South cooperation between South American and African countries on cavy culture - March 2017

In PROCASUR's newsletter Rural iKNOWations, an article was published on: The Learning Territory on “Sustainable minor livestock breeding for food security and income raising of rural families” in Peru. An opportunity for South-to-South Cooperation between Latin American and African countries. Read more ... This initiative is referring to a Learning Territory in Cajabamba, Peru (download brochure in English).

Publications from the Cavy Project made it into assigned reading at Texas A&M University - March 2017

At Texas A&M University-Kingsville, USA, Prof. S.D. Lukefahr teaches International Animal Agriculture, including one Module on "Guinea pigs" or cavies. Students taking this course in Summer Semester 2016 had to study some of our findings from the Cavy Project in Africa as assignment. This will continue to help raising awareness on cavy culture in Africa - fantastic! References from the project were: Niba et al. (2012) and Yiva et al. (2014). See more publications from the Cavy Project here!

Cavy Meeting to take place in Cochabamba, Bolivia - February 2017

A meeting on cavy production will take place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, 22-24 March 2017 with participation
of national and international specialists.

The meeting is supported by the Bolivian Cavy Platform (PlaProCuy -- Plataforma Producción de Cuyes),PROCASUR, PDA Vinto and WorldVision with its project on cavy production (Proyecto Crianza de Cuyes).

The cavy production project has special emphasis on providing income opportunities for women. Read more ...

Further information is available from Angel Reyna (angel_reyna (at) wvi (dot) org).

World Cavy Congress (Congreso Mundial de Cuyes) announced - February 2017

During the Symposium "Avances y Perspectivas en la Producción de Cuyes" at the National Agricultural University La Molina, Lima, Peru, a World Cavy Congress was announced to take place 11-15 October 2017 in Peru.


The BIOCUY project is a research initiative developed between institutions in Ecuador, Spain, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru that intends to study the species Cavia porcellus and takes place within the CONBIAND network. The objectives of this project were:
  • Design a complete set of molecular markers (20 microsatellites).
  • Study the populations of the Cuy of Ecuador; this has been published by Diana Aviles from the Universidad Técnica de Ambato (UTA) in Ecuador.

International Workshop on Cavies taking place in Nairobi, Kenya - November 2016

About 20 participants from Africa (DRC, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania) and South America (Bolivia, Peru) have gathered at ILRI in Nairobi during 14-16 November 2016 to design a project on cavies for future South-South cooperation, invited by IDRC-Canada. Participants are reporting advances in cavy research and development since the International Symposium in Cameroon took place in July this year. Several new initiatives have started both in South America and Africa.

Unearthing big potential of small livestock: First International Symposium on Cavies takes place in Cameroon - July 2016

For the first time in history, experts from South America where cavy research spans over 50 years engaged in a rich exchange of views with cavy stakeholders in Africa where research is still emerging and production is yet to reach its full potential. by Ethel Makila (ILRI) ... read more


The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Kenya in collaboration with the University of Dschang and the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries, Cameroon are convening an International Symposium on Cavies in Yaoundé, Cameroon on 6-8 July 2016.
This event will bring together key stakeholders in the cavy culture industry and some stakeholders dealing with alternative livestock species from Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Kenya and Tanzania; local NGOs and farmer organizations; representatives of international research and funding institutions; academics from Africa and Europe; and organizations from South American countries where cavy rearing is well established including PROCASUR, Colombia and La Molina National University, Peru.
The symposium provides a forum for information exchange among cavy stakeholders within Africa and between Africa and Latin America, and will explore the untapped potential of Africa’s mini livestock to help poor and vulnerable households in Africa climb up the livestock ladder out of poverty. In the longer term this symposium seeks to establish a South–South partnership on cavies and other alternative livestock as means to drive poor rural farmers and other vulnerable communities out of poverty.

Domestic cavies in the Caribbean probably came from Colombia long before the advent of the Spaniards - January 2016

A new article (Kimura et al. 2016) by a research group around the archaeologists and anthropologists Michelle J. LeFebvre, Susan D. deFrance and Scott M. Fitzpatrick, who have worked in the Caribbean for various years, indicates that the remains of domestic cavies found in many excavation sites on Caribbean islands from after 500 A.D. most likely arrived from northern Colombia to where the cavy had spread in prehistoric times; see further articles on domestication, diversity and dissemination. Kimura et al. connect their molecular study with those by Spotorno et al. (2004, 2006, 2007) and other researchers. Whether cavies have been initially disseminated from the Caribbean or from the South American mainlands to Europe and beyond is currently not known.

A new comprehensive book on guinea pigs by Dorothy Yamamoto - October 2015

The writer and poet Dorothy Yamamoto has endeavoured to compile comprehensive knowledge in a very readable book on guinea pigs. She has covered various aspects from the naming, origin in the Andes and domestication to its introduction to Europe, although mostly with a British lense. Many coloured illustrations make the book a feast for the eyes. These include various paintings from the early times of guinea pigs in Europe, particularly by Dutch painters, most of them also assembled on the internet. Other chapters in the book include the animal's use as a meat animal, experimental subject as well as pet and for fancy shows. She extensively covers its entrance in the British literature, especially children's books.

This book - for the first time - shows a photo of a cavy keeper in North Kivu, DR Congo, taken by Neil Palmer (CIAT), part of a photographic series that has been widely spread in the worldwide web (e.g. CGIAR-news; New Agriculturalist).

In the text, though, the significance of domestic cavies in Africa is still negligible, showing us the importance to publish available information from the Cavy Project and help sub-Sahara African cavy keepers to gain a voice in the concert of those concerned with research and development of this small livestock species in order to improve the livelihoods of their keepers and producers.

Dorothy Yamamoto. 2015. Guinea pig. Animal Series. Reaktion Books, London, UK. 184 pp.
Cavy keeper in North Kivu, DR Congo in 2010; Photo by Neil Palmer, CIAT

First study on genetic diversity and population structure of African domestic cavies - August 2015

For the first time, a study on genetic diversity of domestic cavies from Africa has been published - Parfait Kouakou Kouadio summarized the results obtained during his time as an ABCF (Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund) fellow at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, Kenya together with a number of co-authors. Based on microsatellite markers, 131 cavies from North, Central and South Côte d‘Ivoire were genotyped in the BecA lab. Parfait found that a high level of inbreeding existed and that the three cavy populations studied were not genetically distinct, which indicates that a lot of exchange of animals must take place.

A new video on 'The cavy innovation platform in South Kivu' - January 2015

Last year, FAO invited PhD students and young researchers from developing countries, working in the area of animal nutrition, to participate in a video competition and to share information on promising animal nutrition technologies or interventions that will contribute to improved feeding of livestock.
The purpose of conducting the competition was to:
  • promote research focusing on the needs of smallholder farmers,
  • enhance South-South knowledge exchange and transfer, and
  • facilitate identification of technologies and interventions that have potential for replication and upscaling.
A set of 11 selected Videos from the competition can now be accessed.
Here is the video related to Africa: The cavy innovation platform in South Kivu; it was directed by Benjamin Wimba from INERA, DRC in collaboration with various local and international partners.

Cavies in the 6th All African Conference on Animal Agriculture (AACAA) - October 2014

Three papers have been presented on 30 October 2014 during the 6th All African Conference on Animal Agriculture in Nairobi, 27-30 Oct. 2014 (see the conference program here). A lively discussion by many of the about 60 session participants followed, chaired by FAO's assistant country representative, Dr. Augusta Abate. AACAA president, Dr. Ed Rege, called 'the cavy session' one of the hottest of the conference!
  • Production systems, diversity and richness of cavy culture in Cameroon.
    by Meutchieye, F., Ayagirwe, B.B.R, Wikondi, J., Youchahou, P., Bisimwa, B.C.; Bacigale, S.B.; Wamonje, F., Osama, S., Metre, T.K.; Niba, A.T., Manjeli, Y., and Mwai, O.
    (Abstract; powerpoint presentation)
  • Appraising the extent of cavy culture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    by Maass, B.L., Metre, T.K., Tsongo, F., Mugisho, A.B., Kampemba, F.M., Ayagirwe, R.B.B., Azine, P.C. and Bindelle, J. (Abstract; powerpoint
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  • Small is beautiful: Cavies improve livelihoods in DR Congo South Kivu Province.
    by Chiuri, W., Maass, B.L., Wimba, B., Amzati, G., Muhimuzi, F., Amani, C., Habumugisha, P., Metre, T. and Meutchieye, F. (Abstract; powerpoint presentation)

Wanjiku Chiuri presenting

'Cavy Session' in Taifa Room of the KICC

Felix Meutchieye presenting

New project phase to start in late 2014? - July 2014

In late 2013, a concept note for a new project phase has been developed, which is being further elaborated during 2014. This project 'Integrated improvement of cavy-culture for higher productivity, consumption and income in Cameroon, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania' is planned for a 4-year period, 2015-2018. Under the Africa Agricultural Productivity Partnership (AAPP), it has been submitted to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). We are expecting good news towards the end of 2014!

Project Brief for DRC - February 2014

A project brief has been prepared that particularly highlights the importance of cavies in humanitarian assistance. Cavies are described as a crucial resource for livelihood resilience for displaced and poor families in eastern DRC. The key messages of this brief refer to
  • NUTRITIONAL SECURITY - Domestic cavies provide a high quality meat source with high levels of protein (19-20% protein) and low in cholesterol.
  • INCOME GENERATION - Cavies are important for income generation, especially for women.
  • STIMULATION OF MARKETS - Connecting people and organizing markets will help to advance cavy keeping as an economic activity.
  • IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY - Improved flock productivity can be obtained by preventing inbreeding. This is possible through the exchange of male cavies among farmers from different territoires (districts).
The Brief can be downloaded here: PDF (1 MB)

Film clip on cavy project in Cameroon - February 2014

A film clip about the project in Cameroon is available: Les Cobayes Domestiques: The BecA Hub Domestic Cavy Project [in French with English subtitles] - short film on YouTube, uploaded 7 Feb 2014:

A new internet presentation on cavy culture in Cameroon

The Cavy Innovation Platforms for different regions in Cameroon have established an internet presentation that is facilitated by AEAC (Association des Eleveurs et Agriculteurs du Cameroun) in Yaoundé. News on cavy culture relevant for Cameroon will be regularly posted there; see

Scientific Symposium in Bukavu, DRC, 10 Dec. 2013 - African cavy culture: Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Project activities concluded with an international scientific symposium in Bukavu, DRC on 10 December 2013. Exciting results from the project were presented to about 60 participants from research, academia, development, production and trade.
The Proceedings of the Symposium can be downloaded here: PDF (3 MB)

CavySymposium Bukavu Dec 2013.jpg
Participants of the Symposium in Bukavu

Mapping cavies in Africa

According to Andina (Oct. 2013), Ecuador is home to 11 million cavies (cuys), Bolivia to 6 million, and Colombia to approximately 3.5 million cuys being raised for consumption. 'Cuy' is the name most widely applied for the domestic cavy in South America. Peru is the largest producer of cuys in the world, with 22 million animals. -- Our question remains, how many millions of cavies are raised for consumption in the different African countries? -- We think that in the Kivu provinces of the eastern DR Congo alone, there may be up to 2 million cavies or even more!
We are currently producing a map of Africa to document cavy distribution. However, it is almost impossible to find reliable statistics about the number of animals being raised for consumption in African countries as they are not usually included in the livestock census.
Who ever can provide figures and "distribution locations" is very welcome to contribute!

Distribution of cavies in Africa - working map - Oct. 2013

IAR4D training in DRC for Strengthening Partnerships Among Stakeholders in The Cavy Project, August 2013

Participants of the training in Bukavu

BecA-CSIRO partnership meeting in Nairobi, July 2013

During 18-25 July 2013 in Nairobi, there was a BecA-CSIRO partnership meeting, involving also AusAID, in order to develop the next phase of the cavy project. From the project, Felix Meutchieye, Gustave Mushagalusa, Gaston Amzati, Wanjiku Chiuri and Brigitte Maass (from right around the table) were present, supported by Paul Greener (AusAID) and Bruce Pengelly (CSIRO). The concept note needs to be submitted by end of September 2013, however, the first draft is expected by 30 July 2013.

The Cavy Project team

BecA-CSIRO partnership review in Naivasha, June 2013

There has been another major review of project achievements during a retreat in Naivasha, Kenya (3-7 June 2013), in which also a new phase of the project has been considered and outlined. A successful presentation, reviewing the current progress, has been given by Felix Meutchieye and Wanjiku Chiuri. Download a PDF-file of the presentation (5 MB or 2 MB).

BecA-CSIRO partnership review in Nairobi, September 2012

A major review by AusAID and CSIRO of project achievements took place at BecA in Nairobi (10-14 September 2012).

Background information on the countries

Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) - Country Briefing by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI):

Cameroon News

  • The first two MSc students sponsored by the project finalized their studies and defended the theses in June 2013.
  • A feed assessment course has been conducted in Dschang in March 2013 in order to familiarize with the FEAST tool.
  • Mapping of cavy distribution and a survey of production systems have been conducted in the northwestern highlands (WHC) and the southern forest (SFC) zone in Cameroon. For genetic diversity assessment, blood samples have been collected from cavies.
  • Felix went to Bertoua and met a woman who has been keeping cavies for almost 40 years now; she got the two beginners from Bertoua, which is some 200 km from the borders with CAR (Central African Republic). (Email from 30 May 2012).
  • Six students from Cameroon have been identified to conduct their MSc studies at the University of Dschang. In addition, two Congolese joined them in Dschang, where they have initiated their studies at the University of Dschang in May 2012. There are many other MSc & PhD students (Department of Animal Science - University of Dschang) collaborating with the project.
  • During a visit in DRC (University of Kinshasa) last September, 2012, Félix met with Joachim Umba and colleagues there who have been working on genetic and utilization aspects of domestic cavies in DRC. New documents have been collected
  • Ruben Todou (MSc student) in Animal Physiology (University of Dschang) has launched his research on feeds effects in connection with reproduction performances in cavies. University of Dschang has realesed an office and experimental unit for the project, where Cameroon team meets very regularly.
  • The next main activity is Innovation Platform Training Session with some 22 attendees in Yaoundé, scheduled for October, 29-31st, 2012. Dr. Appolinaire Djikeng, project PI will have a country visit from October, 20 till, November, 1st, 2012.

DR Congo News

  • A writeshop to elaborate scientific articles from the research results was conducted in July/August 2013.
  • A second provincial IP meeting took place in Kalehe in February 2013. This was especially important for feeding back incipient information from research to farmers and other stakeholders.
  • Forage multiplication and demonstration trials were set up together with the farmers in all 4 sites.
  • The first IP meeting in Bukavu was conducted in October 2012. The second regional IP meeting was conducted in Kalehe in February 2013.
  • During August 2012, feed assessments have been conducted in 4 villages of the 3 Territoires by applying the FEAST tool (Duncan et al., 2012; see WikiCavy under Research Methods). In all locations, feeds were of short supply during the dry season. Overall, 58 different species from 18 families are said to be used in cavy feeding; most diverse species coming from Asteraceae and Poaceae families.
  • A planning workshop for activities in the second half of 2012 took place in Bukavu on 28 July 2012. Participants included all key partners from UEA, INERA and CIAT.
  • The large survey of cavy production, including questions on animal husbandry, breeds, feeding and socio-economic ones that relate to the livelihoods of cavy keepers has been performed in Kalehe, Kabare and Walungu Territoires of Sud-Kivu in July 2012. A total of 250 cavy keepers have been interviewed. The data are currently being coded for later analysis.
  • Reconnaissance trips have been conducted to various of the Territoires of Sud-Kivu to start mapping of cavy distribution and the survey of cavy production systems. In the mean time, also blood samples have been collected for later mapping of genetic diversity of cavies. The predominant cavy population appears to be in Kalehe, North of the provincial capital Bukavu.
  • Three candidates from DR Congo have been chosen to perform MSc studies; two will graduate at University of Dschang, Cameroon and one will take up his MSc studies at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro, Tanzania, in October 2012.

Last update: 3 November 2017