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Getting enough food is a challenge for much of the world’s population, but for war-affected counties, the problem is even worse. The answer it seems could be ‘microstock’.

Last year researchers from CIAT[1] in the Congo found that villagers in the North and South Kivu districts were keeping guinea pigs. This came as a bit of surprise, because nobody has any idea how guinea pigs (rodents native to South America) how they got there. The guinea pigs are being used to provide meat to these households.

Guinea pigs turn out to be a better choice than traditional large, livestock (pigs, goats etc). The animals are small and easy to conceal, and that reduces the risk of theft. Looting of larger, domestic stock is sadly common, something to do with the poverty and lawlessness of the area. Having small animals that are easy to conceal, turns out to be a very smart, local solution (still, where did they get the guinea pigs to begin with?).

Guinea pigs have other advantages as well. On the farming side of things, they require little investment to begin with. They reproduce very quickly so stock-numbers grow much faster than many other animals. They’re also a lot more resistant to diseases than pigs, chickens or rabbits.

The other advantage of these little critters, is that they’re monogastric. For those of you worried about greenhouse gas emissions, it means they’re going to produce a lot less emissions than our favourite ruminants (cows, sheep).

CIAT is now working on ways to increase guinea pig production, and link it to ways to expand livelihoods in these regions.

[1] CIAT is the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (
[2] Figure is sourced from the CIAT news letter