If someone suggested I put in twice the hours of work for half the pay – I’d say it was a bad deal. Bushmeat hunters in central Africa have a bad deal.
The stories below are from a part of the TL2 area that, two months ago, was still an un-surveyed blank on our map. It is as far as you can get from any major town – half way between Opala and Kindu. Dino set off with a team to survey this forest belonging to the Langa ethnic group at the beginning of June.
Very remote, but it is not too remote for bushmeat hunters. Dino found that here, like almost all the of Africa’s central forest, animal populations are declining disastrously.
In the village of Yaefoto the chief, Iseki Lotaka, declared that when he first set traps (two decades ago) 10 to 20 traps were enough to assure a return of seven animals – enough for any village ceremony, be it a marriage or a mourning. Today a hunter sets 500 to 1000 traps, over a much greater area, far from any village, but will barely get the 20 or 30 animals needed for two bicycle loads of bushmeat.
The bushmeat is carried from the Langa forest as far as Bafundo. Each back pack carries five to seven smoked and dried carcasses.
A bicycle will carry the quantity of bushmeat in two backpacks and will take it on to the Kindu market.
Later, in the village of Kakonga , Dino got more concrete details from Kandolo who, like most of the commercial hunters, does not call the Langa area home. He is a Mu-Songola from the other side of the Congo River where the forest has already been emptied of animals. Although his wife is Mu-Langa they live in Kindu. He comes the 90 miles on bicycle and on foot to his in-law’s village to hunt their forest. He maintains a trap line, 30 wire snares and 200 nylon snares. His bushmeat revenue is all his family has to send their five children to school, pay their health fees, and buy their clothes.
Kandolo with his snares in Kakongo.
For the period of February until mid-May (his last hunting session) he trapped 20 blue duikers (the smallest and most abundant of this forest group of antelope) and 10 red duikers (several species of larger antelope), five red river hogs, four brush-tailed porcupines and two guinea fowl.
After subtracting what he spent locally during those months, Kandolo earned a total of 134 USD, at that rate he would earn less than $460 per year with the same continual effort. What kind of standard of living will that income secure in Kindu?
I talked to one of our house “sentinels” or guards in Kindu to know what it cost to send a child to elementary school:
For one student, yearly costs include inscription, a monthly fee for teacher’s pay, and a trimester fee for chalk and school maintenance. The total annual fee is $ 50.00.
To buy that student a school uniform is 6 dollars, and to buy enough notebooks for one year is $3.50
If Kandolo made his children’s education his top priority, boys and girls alike, he could send all the children to elementary school and have only ten dollars left for everything else. Alas, secondary school costs more. Alas, his two boys are the priority and even there he can hardly manage. Kandolo shrugged his shoulders and confided to Dino, “My eldest son slept with a girl and now that family is demanding $400.00 for the deflowering of their daughter.”
Dino took a photo of these goats, chickens and ducks in a Langa village. They are not seen as an alternative to bushmeat.
If there were other opportunities, bushmeat hunting would be abandoned. Here in central Congo poverty will empty the forests.