Zoonotic Disease and Food Security in Rural Sierra Leone

Faculty Research Grant
Grant Year

In the wake of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, new questions have arisen about the connection between people’s exploitation of tropical forests and the possibility of “releasing” new diseases into human populations as they move deeper into the rainforest. My current research examines the nexus of food insecurity and infectious disease in rural Sierra Leone by tracking chimpanzee and monkey crop raiding, bush clearance for farming, and human use of resources in the gallery forests near their villages. Using ethnographic methods, I aim to discover whether the competition for food resources between humans, chimpanzees, and monkeys is unsustainable, whether it is contributing to short- and long-term food insecurity, and if the consistent indirect contact between humans and non-human primates is increasing the possibility of the circulation of zoonotic diseases between species.