Production systems, diversity and richness of cavy culture in Cameroon
In order to assess existing cavy (Cavia porcellus) production systems of Cameroon western highlands and rain forest agro-ecological zones, a household baseline survey was carried out in a total of 500 households randomly chosen. It appears that cavy culture is a women (> 60%) and youth (>12%) driven livestock production system for both regions. The main motives are consumption (62%), income generation (32%) and manure (18%). The majority of actors are smallholders, more or less organized, with flock size varying from 3 to >500, with a mean of 16 per farmer. Average adult cavy live weight was 620g (±35). The most common production technique was ‘kitchen free roaming’, with only few caging. A total of 475 cavy biodata samples were collected to estimate the genetic variability using 13 microsatellites markers. Inbreeding was a real challenge in all study sites (Fis = 0.32852). Cameroon’s cavy populations demonstrated four putative subpopulations with a wide range of variation, and very distant to 2 other country types. Genetic potential and breeding-related constraints were identified in all the zones. Traits of importance from farmers’ views were growth, adaptability and fecundity. There is need for a well designed and comprehensive national breeding program for cavies, and increased capacity building of farmers to address mortality rates and health issues. Rapid improvements in production could be easily achieved with huge potential impacts through improved feeding and reproduction management.
Key words: Cameroon, domestic cavy, genetic diversity, husbandry, smallholders.