Palm Oil and Bushmeat: Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Sierra Leone
Faculty Research Grant
This research tests the hypothesis that palm farming imperils the survival of chimpanzees and rural village livelihoods in Sierra Leone because farming increases interspecies contact and necessitates chimp exploitation as an economic resource. I will document chimpanzee-human interactions, and follow the circulation, use, and consumption of chimpanzee carcasses in rural Sierra Leone. I will investigate the circumstances under which palm plantations, both commercial and local, are established and maintained, paying close attention to the relationship between rural poverty, land use, and waged labor to determine if people turn over their land to palm farming out of opportunity or need. Finally, I will begin ethnographic studies of bushmeat itself, to discern the circumstances that determine its sale, circulation, and consumption, to determine whether chimps are consumed opportunistically, or if the meat is circulated as part of a cycle of poverty determined by dependence on plantation farming and local and international markets for palm oil.