Livestock Research for Rural Development 30 (6) 2018 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Production systems, phenotypic and genetic diversity, and performance of cavy reared in sub-Saharan Africa: a review

R B B Ayagirwe, F Meutchieye1, Y Manjeli1 and B L Maass2

Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Studies, Evangelical University in Africa. P O Box 3323, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
1 Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Agronomy and Agricultural Sciences, University of Dschang, P O Box 188, Dschang, Cameroon
2 Department of Crop Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Grisebachstr. 6, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany


Cavies (Guinea pigs, Cavia porcellus) are one of the species used as food and nutrition security guarantee for low-income households in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa. This review presents a synthesis of the characteristics of their production systems, their phenotypic and genetic diversity as well as the factors affecting production performance. Cavy farming systems are a secondary activity for farmers and they are varying from one region to another. Cavies are usually kept in free range on the kitchen floor or in cages, but without breeding equipment. There is no control of their diet mostly based on grasses, herbaceous Asteraceae, legumes, kitchen remnants and crop residues. With little hygienic management, the most frequent diseases are coccidiosis, pneumonia, salmonellosis, helminthiasis and ecto-parasites. Substantial phenotypic variability and genetic diversity exist within and between cavy populations in different African countries. Productive and reproductive performances vary and are influenced by factors both exogenous and endogenous to cavies. The main factors are sex, breed, physiological state of the animal, inbreeding level, parity of the mother, litter size, rearing system; type, physical state and palatability of the feed, presence or absence of anti-nutritional factors, supplement type; and the breeding environment.

Key words: animal health, cavy culture, Cavia porcellus, guinea pig, meat, mini-livestock, smallstock



Domestic cavy (Cavia porcellus L.) is commonly used in sub-Saharan Africa as a source of protein and income by small-scale producers. It was introduced into Africa possibly by missionaries during the colonial period (Blench 2000), or even earlier (Maass et al 2014). Widely known as pet, fancy and laboratory animal (Wagner 1976; Hardouin et al 1991), it has been used and continues to serve as a meat animal for the indigenous people in the Andean region of South America for several millennia (Gade 1967; Chauca de Zaldívar 1995; Avilés et al 2014). However, it is only during the late 20th century that cavy started receiving attention in Africa (Hardouin et al 1991; Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Nuwanyakpa et al 1997; Manjeli et al 1998).

This small rodent and herbivore is common in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as a meat animal; it is raised in several countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Guinea (Conakry), Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Togo (NRC 1991; Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995). Cavy production systems are known from high and low elevations as well as in humid and dry regions of SSA (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995). Cavy meat is used as an alternative source of animal protein, containing low fat, and more protein and minerals as compared to meat of other livestock species (Kouakou et al 2013). Further purposes are income generation and manure, although marketing is rather local and only little developed, for instance in South Kivu, DRC (Simtowe et al 2017). It is also used in traditional medicine to treat anemia (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Maass et al 2014).

Cavy is a promising livestock especially in SSA because it requires little capital, provides quality but cheap meat (NRC 1991; Lammers et al 2009), can be afforded by poor people, and constitutes the basis of a ‘livestock ladder’ to greater wealth (Maass et al 2013). Due to its easy management practices (Morales 1994), it can cohabit with other species such as rabbits, and is easily integrated into the agricultural system because it feeds on crop residues, and its excrements are commonly used as organic fertilizers (Lammers et al 2009).

Cavies are early and prolific (Dikko et al 2009; Lammers et al 2009); when subjected to adequate nutrition and clean environment, they reproduce rapidly with less health care compared to other species such as rabbits (NRC 1991; Lammers et al 2009) and, therefore, constitute a guarantee of food and nutrition security (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995). Despite the socio-economic benefits of cavy husbandry at household level, their population size remains poorly known in SSA as they are not included in national livestock census except for Tanzania (NBS 2012). However, a number of recent studies have shown that there is variability in production systems and performance as well as a considerable level of genetic diversity both within and among farms.

Objectives and methodological approach

Two review articles published for Cameroon (Niba et al 2012) and DRC (Maass et al 2014) emphasize recent institutional progress in cavy research and development. In this review, we focus on technical aspects of cavy culture in SSA. The objective is to provide an overview of the knowledge available on the domestic cavy in SSA and, thus, guide future actions of stakeholders involved in promoting the cavy industry. The review focuses on synthesizing available information on production systems, and phenotypic and genotypic diversity of known African cavy populations as well as their productivity. South American literature was only used for comparison if deemed necessary.

This review was carried out by consulting published articles as well as reports and academic theses related to cavy production with focus on SSA. Some of this information has been accumulated on the website of the Cavy Project ‘Harnessing husbandry of domestic cavy for alternative and rapid access to food and income in Cameroon and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’ (WikiCavy: This was complemented by consulting libraries of the Université Evangélique en Afrique (UEA) in Bukavu, DRC and the University of Dschang in Cameroon. Some observations on phenotypic diversity made during the baseline study of the Cavy Project in Cameroon and South Kivu, DRC in 2012 will also be included.

Cavy production systems in sub-Saharan countries

Distribution of cavy production

In sub-Saharan Africa, cavy husbandry has been known for several decades (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Niba et al 2012; Maass et al 2014). However, there is still little documentation on cavy production systems in Africa. Three types of cavy production systems have been classified in South America, characterized by their role in the production unit: family farming, semi-commercial family farming and commercial farming (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997; Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003). Unlike in South America, cavies are principally kept under traditional management in SSA (Manjeli et al 1998; Cicogna 2000; Kouakou et al 2011; Matthiesen et al 2011). Its husbandry is a secondary family activity predominantly carried out by small-scale farmers with low income, dominated by women, youth and children in varying proportions depending on the country as illustrated in Table 1. The high percentage of illiterates among cavy keepers may constitute a handicap for improvement.

Table 1. Some characteristics of cavy farming in Sub-Saharan Africa, from West to East

Location studied
(Region/ province)

Farmer gender
(proportion of respondents)

Education level
(proportion of respondents)

Flock size mean
and range (no.)



Departments of Couffou, Borgou, Ouémé

75% men

55% illiterate

18 (4 to 100)

Faihun et al 2017

Côte d'Ivoire        

Central and southern regions

96% men (72% young <18 years)

19% illiterate

9 (2 to 60)

Kouakou et al 2011


Across the country

84% women and children

29% illiterate

18 (1 to 135)

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Nuwanyakpa et al 1997; Manjeli et al 1998; Yiva et al 2014


South Kivu province

83% women

42% illiterate

9 (6 to 30)

Maass et al 2012; Metre 2012

Mbanza-Ngungu (Congo Central province)

55% children;
84% male



Nguizani 2001

Lubumbashi town (Haut-Katanga province)

43% men and 20% children


3 (1 to 12)

Kampemba 2011


Dodoma region

70% adult men


5 (1 to 30)

Komwihangilo et al 2016

Iringa/Njombe region



1-10 (< 40)

Matthiesen et al 2011

n.d. – not determined; n.a. – not available

As there are no authoritative figures on population size in SSA countries, it is difficult to estimate the proportion of farmers or livestock keepers in an area who hold cavies, as reported numbers also depend on the sampling method. From a survey conducted in central Tanzania, Komwihangilo et al (2016) showed that 52% of the interviewees were keeping cavies, while 48% had kept them in the past. This confirms numbers by Matthiesen (2011) from the southern highlands of Tanzania, where 57% were keeping cavies and another 29% had formerly kept them. Maass et al (2012) determined about 50% of the surveyed livestock keepers had cavies in rural areas of South Kivu, while Metre (2011) found that eight out of ten households were raising them. Previous observations reported only about one third of surveyed households in South Kivu with cavies (Schoepf and Schoepf 1987). This variation in numbers may indicate some change of the cavy population over time, besides it may merely depend on different assessment methods.

Cavy husbandry

In general, cavies are raised freely on the ground in kitchens mostly built as clay huts, where furniture and utensils serve as hiding places for animals, and only few households use cages (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Nuwanyakpa et al 1997; Manjeli et al 1998; Matthiesen et al 2011). Special areas confined by walls of timber, clay or bricks (Photo 1) have been frequently observed in Tanzania (Matthiesen 2011) and Benin (Faihun et al 2017). In Côte d’Ivoire, however, the majority of cavies are kept in wooden or bamboo cages (66%) or other confinements made of local materials (Kouakou et al 2015). Livestock equipment is almost non-existent and, when they exist, tin cans and mugs are used for water supply (Manjeli et al 1998; Metre 2012). The majority of cavy keepers are not separating animals depending on their sex and age (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Manjeli et al 1998), which leads to high inbreeding rates and low performance as reported across SSA cavy populations (Cigogna 2000; Kouakou et al 2015; Poutougnigni et al 2015; Wikondi et al 2015; Ayagirwe et al 2017). In addition to inbreeding, negative selection within the flock further results in low performance, as the largest animals usually serve for sale. This is typical too for the traditional family production systems in South American countries (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997). Chauca de Zaldívar (1997) also states that the population structure commonly is inadequate in traditional systems so that more breeding males than necessary are kept within the flock, which decreases the production efficiency.

Photo 1. Examples of typical confining structures for cavy husbandry in two kitchens in the southern
highlands of Tanzania, made of (a) timber and (b) bricks (Photos T Matthiesen)
Feeds and feeding practices

Cavies in sub-Saharan Africa are mostly fed on locally available forage plants with little other supplements (Table 2), the use of concentrate being restricted and only applied in experimental trials but usually not at farm level. Across all countries, grasses (Poaceae), herbaceous composites (Asteraceae), legumes (Leguminosae) and kitchen waste are the predominant cavy feed resources. Forages are typically gathered from fields or along roadsides. Collected quantities depend on the carrying capacity of those in charge of feeding, commonly women, youth and children. Cavies are generally fed 1-3 times per day with no quantification of the amount.

Despite the importance of water supply to cavies (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997; Fuss 2002), this aspect is rarely taken into account. Thus, cavies are typically satisfied with the water accidentally found in the house and the one contained in fresh forages. Daily consumption in forages is estimated to be 70-300 ml of water per adult per day. Daily water requirement of animals in reproduction can be 250 ml and higher, depending on the feed type and if temperatures exceed 30 °C (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997). Limited water consumption influences negatively dry matter (DM) intake; moreover, it can lead to cannibalism and have other negative effects not only on animal growth but also on reproduction (e.g. decreased fertility, embryonic death, abortion, or young animals that are too weak) (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997; Fuss 2002; Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003).

Table 2. Types of feed and their contribution in cavy diets in Sub-Saharan Africa

Feed type,
plant family

Côte d’Ivoire





Tanzania (Southern highlands)







+++ (42-69%)







+++ (26%)







++ (6-9%)




+ (3%)




+ (3%)


+ (3%)




+ (3%)


Crop residues







Kitchen waste




+++ (22%)










Kouakou et al 2015

Faihun et al 2017

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995

Fransolet et al 1994

Nguizani 2001; Metre 2012;
Bacigale et al 2014; Kampemba et al 2017

Matthiesen 2011;
Matthiesen et al 2011

Legend: +, ++, +++, in increasing frequency present in the diet; percentages (%) indicate the quantified proportion in the diet according to Bacigale et al (2014). The commonly used Poaceae are: Brachiaria ruziensis, Coix lacryma-jobi, Cynodon plectostachyum, Digitaria spp., Megathyrsus maximus (syn. Panicum maximum), Paspalum conjugatum, Pennisetum purpureum, Setaria spp. and Tripsacum andersonii. Among Asteraceae there are: Ageratum conyzoides, Aspilia africana, Bidens pilosa, Galinsoga spp., Synedrella nodiflora and Tagetis minuta. Calliandra calothyrsus, Centrosema molle, Desmodium intortum, Leucaena leucocephala and Sesbania sesban are among the most used legumes. Other forages include leaves of banana, sweet potato, amaranth and local bamboo (i.e. Oyxtenanthera braunii in Tanzania); fruit peels of bananas, citrus, pineapples and mangoes; tubers and bean pods.

Diseases and mortality

Mortality due to diseases, trampling and predators is a major constraint to the development of cavy culture in Africa (Manjeli et al 1998). The main predators of cavies reported are cats and dogs, followed by snakes, silkworm ants and chickens that peck at the young. Mortality is also due to trampling, as cavies live freely in the kitchen (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995). Mortality is reported up to 40%, particularly at birth and before weaning, in Cameroon (Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Manjeli et al 1998), and estimated up to 50% of the flock in South Kivu (Metre 2012). Cavy keepers in Benin report between 14 and even 75% mortality, mainly due to unknown causes (Faihun et al 2017).

The most challenging diseases remain unknown to African cavy keepers due to weak knowledge of diagnosis. Fuss (2002) recognizes non-infectious and infectious causes (bacterial, viral or parasitic), acting alone or in combination in the genesis of pathologies in cavies. Other factors contributing to diseases are related to the husbandry environment (transport, overcrowding, bad environmental conditions, lack of hygiene), and to feeding (Kouam et al 2017). In cavy populations of Mbanza-Ngungu (Congo Central province of DRC), the most frequent diseases identified are coccidiosis, pneumonia, salmonellosis and ecto-parasites (Nguizani 2001). In Cameroon, helminthes and arthropods (40.3%) as well as ecto-parasites and myiasis (30.6%) were the most common (Kouam et al 2015). Comparable observations were made in South Kivu, where helminthes were the most dominant parasites (Lwendje 2013). Among the arthropods, Heri et al (2015) identified mites (i.e. Sarcoptes scabiei and Demodex sp.) more prevalent among females and older animals in South Kivu; they suggest that inadequate hygiene and possible vitamin deficiencies increase the animals’ susceptibility for ecto-parasites and other diseases. From studies in South America, it is known that lack of hygiene is one of the most important causes identified for a predisposition of domestic cavies to fall ill (Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003). Crossbred cavies in Kinshasa, DRC, suffered particularly from parasitic diseases (>50% of deaths) and bacterial infections (>40% of deaths); also diseases were more prevalent in the rainy season (Umba et al 2016). Manjeli et al (1998) likewise identified the rainy season for peak incidences of pneumonia. Susceptibility to any disease increases when animals lack adequate feeding (CooRu 2007). Generally, cavies are susceptible to respiratory illnesses, being more tolerant to cold than to heat. Sudden environmental changes regarding temperatures in addition to high humidity, but also draft and overcrowding of animals are known important causes for diseases such as pneumonia (Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003; CooRu 2007).

Phenotypic characteristics of cavies in sub-Saharan Africa

Based on phaneroptic characteristics and body measurements in cavy, Ayagirwe et al (2015) noted that main components differentiating cavy groups in Cameroon were body weight, coat color variegation, satin of the coat, and the head profile. These phenotypic characteristics vary among populations, regions and countries, also reported by Manjeli et al (1995). They depend both on breeds and the genetic differences among animals as well as production systems as animal management methods vary.

Coat color

Cavies in sub-Sahara Africa show four principal coat color patterns, from which several combinations result. The main basic color patterns found in several SSA countries are black, brown, gray-ash and white (Photo 2). Among the most dominant combinations are white-ash, black-white, black-brown and white-brown (Photo 3; Ayagirwe et al 2015). Animals on Photos 2 and 3 are from Cameroon, however, the same coat color patterns are known from DRC. Cavies have predominantly short, smooth coats and would be considered of Type 1, the so-called ‘Inglés’ (i.e. ‘English’). Animals with long and/or curly hair, even forming rosettes, as known from South America (Chauca de Zaldívar 1995) have not been reported in Africa. Coat colors are found with or without satin (lightening or shiny hair).

Photo 2. Monochrome coat color patterns of cavies in Cameroon: (a) black;
(b) brown; and (c) white (from Ayagirwe et al 2015).
Photo 3. Coat patterns with typical color combinations of cavies in Cameroon: (a) white-ash; (b) black-white;
(c) black-brown; and (d) white-brown (from Ayagirwe et al 2015)

The variety of phaneroptic characteristics observed in cavies is due to an extraordinary diversity of coat color patterns. This color diversity, especially of multi-chromatic coat color patterns, has also been observed by Fotso et al (1995) in Cameroon and Kouakou et al (2015) in Côte d’Ivoire. The main types of coat color patterns observed in SSA cavy production systems are consistent with the observations made by Harman and Case (1941), Festing (1976) and Warren et al (2008). Indeed the latter, having carried out studies on cavy coat color patterns to identify their underlying genetics, found the existence of white, black, brown and gray-ash. The combination of different colors in one individual has been shown to be linked to the effect and interaction of several genes, including the Extension (E) locus, the Agouti (A) locus, the Brown (B) locus, the Color (Albino) locus, the Roan (Ro) locus, and the locus responsible for white traces in the coat (S) (Festing 1976; Warren et al 2008). A total of twelve loci influence coat color in cavies (Festing 1976). The existence of variable coat color patterns within a cavy population is mostly the result of gene interactions and random mating between individuals. The expression of the gene at the Agouti locus (A) found in wild cavy is still observable in domestic cavy coat color patterns. It would result from the consequence of epistatic relationships between the Agouti locus and the other loci involved in the coat color, in particular the Extension (E) gene (Warren et al 2008). Eyes are pink (red) or black (blue); eye color is related to coat color as animals with pink eyes have mostly white coat color pattern.

Animal shape and size

The cavy head has an elongated or rounded profile. In Cameroon, Ayagirwe et al (2015) reported 53% of cavies with elongated head profile against 47% of cavies with rounded head profile. The ears are either erect or drooping (Avilés-Esquivel 2016). Chauca de Zaldívar (2016, pers. comm.) considers drooping ears are a trait of more domesticated, improved forms.

In Africa, animal live weight of local adult animals varies between 352 and 1200 grams, while the animal’s body length was found between 20 and 35 cm (Metre 2012; Yiva et al 2014; Ayagirwe et al 2015; Umba et al 2017b). At the age of 24 weeks, Metre (2012) reported an average live weight of 540 g in South Kivu. Sizes and weights are comparable to those documented from traditional animals in South America (459 g), but these are very low when compared to improved breeds (1091 g) at the age of 13 weeks (Chauca de Zaldívar 1995).

Genetic diversity of cavies in sub-Saharan Africa

Genetic variation studies play an important role in the development of breeding strategies for economic animal species (Maudet et al 2002). Genetic characterization studies conducted by Kouakou et al (2015), Poutougnigni et al (2015), Wikondi et al (2015) and Ayagirwe et al (2017) showed that there was great genetic variability within the cavy population of each region, but also among regions and countries, suggesting opportunities for improvement. Microsatellite markers (SSRs) have been applied to evaluate genetic diversity of different domestic cavy populations from Sub-Saharan Africa (Kouakou et al 2015; Poutougnigni et al 2015; Wikondi et al 2015; Ayagirwe et al 2017) and South America (Burgos-Paz et al 2011; Aviles et al 2015). Out of 16 SSRs developed by Kanitz et al (2009) and widely used in domestic cavy genetic diversity assessment, only 12 have been amplified in the population from the unimodal agro-ecological zone of southern Cameroon (Ayagirwe et al 2017) and from South Kivu in DRC (Bisimwa et al 2013); while Wikondi et al (2015) and Poutougnigni et al (2015) obtained 13 in other regions of Cameroon, and Kouakou et al (2015) got 14 for the population in Côte d’Ivoire. Diversity indices for published studies on animals from both sub-Saharan Africa and South America are summarized in Table 3. Unfortunately, no published study has as yet combined animals from both continents.

Table 3. Comparative assessment of genetic diversity in domestic and wild cavy populations from sub-Saharan Africa and South America


Country region

studied (no.)

studied (no.)

Polymorphic SSR
markers (no.)

alleles (no.)

Mean alleles
per locus (no.)

 species of Cavia

Heterozygocity *




Sub-Saharan Africa  

Côte d'Ivoire

Across country






C. porcellus



Kouakou et al 2015


Highland zone






C. porcellus



Wikondji et al 2015


bimodal rainfall zone






C. porcellus



Poutougnigni et al 2015


Coastal zone






C. porcellus



Ayagirwe et al 2017


South Kivu






C. porcellus



Bisimwa et al 2013

South America


South: Nariño






C. porcellus



Burgos-Paz et al 2011







Wild C. magna



Kanitz et al 2009







Wild C. aperea



Kanitz et al 2009







Wild C. aperea



Asher et al 2008

Ecuador, Colombia,Peru, Bolivia, and Spain






C. porcellus



Aviles et al 2015

* He – expected heterozygosity; Ho – observed heterozygosity.
n.a. – not available.

The total number of alleles varied between 34 (Colombian populations) and 216 (South American and Spanish populations), while the number of alleles per locus was between 3.5 and 10.8 alleles on average. The number of alleles is varying according to the number of markers, the number and population of genotypes used, particularly, if wild animals were included, and the number of samples. Yet increasing the sampled population would increase the likelihood of finding new alleles (Foulley et al 2006). Observed and expected heterozygosity were variable, the highest observed values being in wild cavy as compared to domestic cavy populations. The highest variability observed by Aviles et al (2015) compared to other authors is related to the variability of studied populations, which have been assembled from the broadest geographical area studied, including four South American countries (Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia) with various agro-ecological conditions, in addition to the relatively high numbers of markers and populations used (Avilés-Esquivel 2016).

In general, when the expected rate of heterozygosity (He) is higher than the observed (Ho), this indicates a deficit in heterozygosity. This situation is detected when inbreeding is high within the population. However, when in some populations (Colombia, domestic cavy, and wild C. aperea) Ho values were higher than He, this implies outbreeding (gain in heterozygosity). Due to the common lack of reproductive management and low cavy numbers per household, high inbreeding rates have been reported in cavy populations (Fis = 0.25 to 0.60) of Sub-Saharan Africa (Kouakou et al 2015; Poutougnigni et al 2015; Wikondi et al 2015; Ayagirwe et al 2017); this explains why the deficit in heterozygosity is high. Overall greater deviation from expected heterozygosity was found in African populations than in South American populations.

Kouakou et al (2015) found only small molecular variation among the studied cavy populations from Côte d’Ivoire (2.6%), intermediate variability in the population (22.0%) and high variability (75.4%) among individuals within each population. Similar observations (4.9%, 40.6% and 54.4%, respectively) were made by Ayagirwe et al (2015) for populations from Cameroon and Bisimwa et al (2013) for populations from South Kivu, DRC (4.0%, 34.4% and 61.6%, respectively). This existence of relatively high molecular variability observed among individuals of different populations and among individuals of the same population indicates a possibility of intra-population selection before inter-population crossing for an objective of genetic improvement of cavy.

Ayagirwe (2014) showed weak structuring of the cavy population of the unimodal rainfall zone from Cameroon. Indeed, having evaluated five different geographical populations, they were structured into three distinct genetic groups. Bisimwa et al (2013) formed two distinct groups from their data of three cavy propulations in eastern DRC, while Kouakou et al (2015) found low genetic differentiation of the population from Côte d’Ivoire. Burgos-Paz et al (2011) observed a similar situation of missing clustering for the cavy populations studied from southern Colombia and Avilés-Esquivel (2016) for those from Ecuador.

The 16 mostly used SSRs were only reported to be in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in a C. aperea population (Kanitz et al 2009); however, they showed a certain deviation in some loci when considering domestic cavy population and C. magna population. The smaller the sample size, the more deviated was the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Exchanging animals between breeders, a small flock size, and non-random mating are factors that would have affected the equilibrium in these populations.

According to Ahmed et al (2010), the genetic make-up of a population presents a possibility of variation over time. Indeed, populations undergo forces that determine their genetic make-up and tend to maintain or modify it. The consequence of these evolutionary forces is to vary the rate of heterozygosity of the population in relation to the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Moreover, two genetically similar populations may be subjected to different evolutionary factors, and their genetic make-up will differentiate from one another over time, having an effect on both the allelic frequencies and the relationship between the observed and expected heterozygosity. Chauca de Zaldívar (1995) found that, in general, South American cavy populations have preserved a great genetic and phenotypic variability.

The low level of structuring and a high inbreeding rate have been observed in production systems of other livestock species. This would be attributed to non-random crossing due to absence of reproductive management (Granevitze et al 2007; Serrano et al 2009; Wu et al 2009). Cavy is not spared when considering its rapid growth, its high reproduction rate, and the mostly traditional management system applied. Nevertheless, the genetic performance potential of cavies from different countries and regions in sub-Saharan Africa has not been studied as yet.

Productivity of cavies in sub-Saharan Africa

The productivity of cavies depends on several factors, which also interact between each other. Primarily, productivity depends on animal genetics, feed and health.

Growth performance

Growth refers to changes in stature and weight of an animal (Clement 1981). It is influenced by exogenous factors related to the environment of the animal and endogenous factors specific to the animal. Generally, it is assumed that the male has a higher growth rate compared to the female, as is the case with young animals as compared to adults (Gadoud et al 1992). An animal’s growth curve is also influenced by the rearing system. This curve of a sigmoidal form in an intensive production system becomes highly variable in the extensive production system as a result of variable feed availability (McDonald et al 2010). Growth rate is also a function of the breed type used.

It has been found in a South Kivu cavy population that, on average, the length is 9.5 cm at birth, 12.0 cm at weaning, and 25.0 cm at the age of 34 weeks. The mean daily linear growth for both sexes is about 0.06 cm (Metre 2012). In Nigeria, Egena et al (2010b) recorded 25.7 cm and 24.6 cm body length, respectively, for adult male and female animals of unknown age after twelve weeks under controlled conditions. Fotso et al (1995) documented 27.6 cm at 15 weeks of age on station in Cameroon. Over decades of research and development in Peru since the mid-1960s, adult body size has been substantially increased by selection (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997).

Daily weight gain

Used in the assessment of weight evolution by regular weighing, daily live weight gain is influenced by cavy management practices, the animal’s characteristics and the litter size (Table 4). With 3-4 g/animal, the average daily live weight gain is relatively low in traditional management, and higher in males as compared to females (Manjeli et al 1998). However, when considering growing cavy, no significant difference was found between the sexes (Fotso et al 1995; Niba et al 2004a; Zougou 2012; Todou 2013). The richer the diet, the greater the weight gain is (Kouakou et al 2010). Weight gain also depends on age, being higher in young animals compared to older ones (Niba et al 2004a; Fonteh et al 2005; Bacigale et al 2013), although other factors like weaning can reverse this effect (Fonteh et al 2005).

Table 4. Comparison of some factors and their effects on daily live weight gain in cavy from sub-Saharan Africa

Daily weight gain (g)




3.5 to 13.4 (male),
3.0 to 12.1 (female)

No significant difference in growing cavies

Manjeli et al 1998; Niba et al 2004; Zougou 2012;
Todou 2013; Zougou et al 2017

3.2 (male) vs.
3.1 (female)

No major difference until 15 weeks of age

Fotso et al 1995

7.3 to 2.8

Decreases with the number of kids in the litter

Niba et al 2008; Todou 2013

Litter size    

4.6 and 3.7

Mean of single- or twin-born in the first 3 weeks of life

Niba et al 2004b

12.6 to 3.9

Decreases with the age of the mother

Niba et al 2004a; Bacigale et al 2013

Age of mother    

2.3 (old m.) vs.
2.0 (young m.)
1.5 (old m.) vs.
1.9 (young m.)

Mother weaned at 21 days;
mother not weaned

Fonteh et al 2005

Birth weight

Newborn weighing 50-70, 70-90 or >90 g


3.1, 4.0 or 4.7

Niba et al 2004b

2.4, 3.5 or 4.4

Niba et al 2008


During lactation and after weaning of kids


3.4 and 2.0

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1994

3.6 and 2.3

Fotso et al 1995

Energy and protein    

1.7 to 12.6

Increases with energy and protein levels

Niba et al 2004a; Zougou 2012; Todou 2013;
Zougou et al 2017

1.9 to 7.1

Kouakou et al 2012

Source of protein    

2.0 to 5

Using concentrate or Canavalia brasiliensis

Katunga et al 2012; Metre 2012; Bacigale 2016

1.2 to 3.1

Using cotton or jatropha seed cake, or Euphorbia heterophylla

Kouakou et al 2010

With appropriate feeding in Peru, traditional ‘Criollo’ cavies had between 4 and 6 g daily live weight gain, while improved breeds showed >10-13 g (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997; Morales et al 2011). When comparing weight development between cavies from Cameroon and Peru, the former animals seem to have a slightly lower growth rate (Figure 1), although they start with almost the same birth weight (85 g vs. 87 g). Improved breeds like ‘Peru’ have been selected for higher birth weights of about 150 g and faster growth with high daily weight gains, in order to reach the desired slaughter weight of 800 g at the age of two months (Chauca de Zaldívar 1995; Noguera et al 2008), depending on good husbandry and feeding conditions.

Figure 1. Comparing live weight development (in g) over age (in days) between local cavies from Cameroon
kept on station under improved conditions (Fotso et al 1995) with traditional (‘Criollo Sierra’) and
improved (‘Peru Costa’) animals in Peru under optimum conditions (Chauca de Zaldívar 1995)
Feed intake

Feed intake varies according to sex, type of feed, type of supplement and physiological state of the animal. It is generally estimated in DM and varies between 5 and 7% of live weight (Cigogna 2000; Bindelle et al 2007; Niba et al 2009). DM feed intake per adult animal per day has been reported as 64.8 to 74.3 g (Kouakou et al 2010), 60 g (Zougou 2012), and higher, i.e. 115.8 g (Egena et al 2010a) and 187.8 g (Azine et al 2016a,b) depending on the quality of the diet fed. For example, the intake of Panicum maximum and Euphorbia heterophylla increases when they are associated with a protein source like Jatropha curcas kernels or cottonseed meal (Kouakou et al 2010). In several forage evaluation studies, it was found that some forages were more palatable than others and, thus, relatively more ingested (Bindelle et al 2007; Katunga et al 2012; Azine et al 2016a,b; Kampemba et al 2017; Emile et al 2017). Feed intake is affected by factors such as the plant’s physical state and the presence of anti-nutritional factors in the plant that may restrict ingestion (Alonzo and Hildebrand 1999; Del-Vechio-Vieira et al 2009). This is the case of the Asteraceae Bidens pilosa and Ageratum (rich in saponin after Alonzo and Hildebrand 1999), which are acting unfavorably on feed intake in cavies (Azine et al 2016a,b). Bindelle et al (2009) also suggest that often-fed Commelina spp. (Commelinaceae) contain anti-nutritional components and should, therefore, not be included in the diet. Chopping five grasses and three legumes did not influence their voluntary intake (Emile et al 2017).When the ambient temperature increases to over 30°C, cavies reduce feed intake, which subsequently affects growth and production (Ngoula et al 2017).

Feed conversion ratio

The feed conversion ratio (FCR) is expressing the amount of feed needed to produce one kilogram of meat or rather one kg of body weight increase, meaning it is used to assess the efficiency of feed conversion. FCR is influenced by factors related to both the animal and the feed and has been reported in a wide range from 2.1 to 23.7 for cavies in SSA (Manjeli at al 1998; Niba et al 2004a; Zougou et al 2017); these data refer to comprehensive conditions, including experimental and traditional husbandry as well as covering from very young to old animals. According to Fotso et al (1995), FCR increased with age (FCR=5.9 during 3-6 weeks of age versus 13.7 during weeks 15-18). Cavies fed on cottonseed cake had a high FCR compared to the control (8.8, 9.4 and 17.6, depending on the level of cottonseed cake included in the diet of 0, 25, and 50%, respectively) (Niba et al 2004a). Those fed only with forages also had a higher FCR than the ones receiving concentrate (Bacigale et al 2013; Azine et al 2016a; Bacigale 2014). Traditional cavy production in South America has similar FCR values (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997); however, it has been shown that FCR as low as 3.2 can be achieved with improved breeds fed essentially on concentrate (Morales et al 2011).

Characteristics of the carcass

Overall, carcass yield has been reported to range between 33 and 72% in studies from sub-Saharan Africa (Table 5), whereby these values obviously reflect different assessment methods. Carcass yield (in %) is the proportion of usable parts in relation to the animal’s live weight. Some define the carcass as what remains of the animal after removing the head, legs (all 4 lower limbs), hair, skin, blood and all viscera (Kouakou et al 2013). Although the ‘fifth quarter’ (i.e. the head, legs, skin and viscera) is generally consumed by African people (pers. comm. N’G D V Kouakou 2018). Umba et al (2017a) distinguish between gross and net carcass yield; the first is the live weight at slaughter, including head, legs, kidneys, fat and skin, while net yield is slaughtered and stripped weight of only boneless meat (pers. comm. J M Umba 2018). Chauca de Zaldívar (1997) define carcass as four quarters plus the head (which is also consumed in South America) and the kidneys, while Higaonna-O et al (2006) optionally also include heart, lungs and liver. The lack of comparability due to the diverse assessment methods has prompted Sánchez-Macías et al (2016) to suggest standard criteria and procedures for evaluation, jointing and tissue separation of cavy.

Carcass yield varies according to the characteristics of the animal (i.e. age, sex and genotype) and is influenced by management practices (Table 5). It also depends on the type of feed the animal receives. When cavies are supplemented with concentrate, carcass yield is improved. On the other hand, due to the presence of anti-nutritional factors in some feed resources, as is the case in Asteraceae (e.g. rich in saponin) and cottonseed cake (gossypol) for instance, their effect reduces carcass yield but tends to increase the visceral weight. In South America, too, a wide range of carcass yield has been reported depending on breed and the many aspects of management. For traditional ‘Criollo’ cavies, 54.4% were typical, while for improved cavies in commercial production 67.4% were common; hybrids between ‘Criollos’ and improved cavies achieved 63.4% (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997).

Table 5. Variation of cavy carcass characteristics in Sub-Saharan Africa


weight (g)

weight (g)

yield (%)

Net carcass
yield (%) b



Feed type

Panicum (75%) and Euphorbia (25%)




Adult animal

Kouakou et al 2013

Panicum maximum (100%)




Adult animal

Cottonseed cake (inclusion in diet)




15 weeks old

Niba et al 2004a

Tithonia diversifolia (inclusion in diet)



3 months old

Zougou 2012

Asteraceae (Galinsonga and Ageratum)




3 months old

Azine et al 2016a

Animal genotype

Local Cameroonian




Genotype from western vs. north western Cameroon

Azine et al 2016a; Zougou et al 2017

Crosses among local Congolese



66.9-71.1 c

38.2-42.4 d

Generations F1 to F3

Umba et al 2017a

Crosses Congolese x Belgian



56.5-64.6 c

34.5-39.6 d

Generations F1 to F3

Animal age

15 weeks old



68.4 e

35.9 f

Fed with concentrate and grass/ legume forage, on station

Fotso et al 1995

23 weeks old



72.2 e

41.9 f

a ‘Carcass yield’ refers to the weight of four quarters plus the head and, sometimes, kidneys and/or other edible offal in relation to live weight of the animal.
‘Net carcass yield’ mostly refers to the weight of the animal remains when removing the head, blood, viscera, leg extremities and hairs in relation to the live weight of the
animal; however, in most references this is not precisely defined.
Including the head, legs, kidneys, fat and skin.
Without head, viscera, skin and boneless.
Including the head, legs, liver, heart, kidneys, fat and skin.
Without head and skin.

Reproductive performance

Cavies belong to the species with spontaneous ovulation and have heat all year-round. Although cavies can conceive as early as at 2 months of age (Niba et al 2012), their sexual maturity occurs at 3-4 months of age when they weigh between 450 and 600 grams (Banks 1989). For optimizing production, it is recommended to use one male for 5 to 10 and more females (Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003). The estrus cycle lasts 16 days (13-20), with heats of 6-7 hours at least after parturition. Litter sizes range predominantly from 1 to 4 kids, which are fully able to ingest forages within hours of birth. During the first two gestations, the number of kids at birth is lower. Since the cavy has only 2 teats, it is advisable to keep 2 to 3 kids or to let the extra kids be adopted by other mothers. Their reproductive characteristics make it possible to obtain up to 5 gestations per year, but with the risk of exhausting the female (Cicogna 2000; Hardouin 2004). The duration of economic production of females is 1.5 years, when prolificacy starts to decline (Koeslag 1989) approximately after 6 litters, or the 6th parturition (Banks 1989). As in other animals, several factors endogenous to the animal (breed, number of parturitions, physiological state) or exogenous conditions (climate, breeding conditions, feeding and health) and their interactions can affect reproductive parameters in cavies. Studies have shown that subjecting cavies to insufficient feed leads to fertility decreases, embryo death, abortion, low birth weight and high mortality (Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003).

Female fertility and prolificacy

Normally, a production of 10-15 offspring per female per year can be reached (Koeslag 1989), depending on the fertility rate and the prolificacy of the female. The female fertility rate for a group of animals in reproduction refers to the proportion of females that give birth. It measures the ability of successful gestation of females across a population, being influenced by several factors. Kouakou et al (2012) obtained fertility rates of 100% and 75%, respectively, when the females were supplemented or not with concentrate in Côte d'Ivoire. Also on station in Cameroon, Fotso et al (1995) recorded an annual fertility rate of 93.3%. Some mineral elements such as selenium and zinc improve the fertility rate up to 100% (Eba 2011). When fed various forages and subjected or not to Vitamin E supplement, females had different fertility rates (from 28 to 100%) depending on the treatment applied (Todou 2013; Azine et al 2016b). All these effects have been achieved under experimental conditions. This is not different from typical on-farm fertility rates in Peru (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997). Kenfack et al (2006) observed an increase in the number of ovulations in adult cavies by substituting part of their grass diet of Pennisetum purpureum by increasing proportions of the legume Arachis glabrata. In the same experiment, the effect on prenatal mortality by higher protein in the feed was not clear.

Prolificacy of females or number of live offspring per parturition is a product of the number of litters per year (or parturition rate) and the average litter size. Litter size is the number of kids per parturition per female. It is a genetic trait that depends on the breed (Fransolet et al 1994). Apparently local cavies from Gabon had higher litter size (3.0; Fransolet et al 1994) than local ones from Cameroon (1.2-1.8; Nuwanyakpa et al 1997; Manjeli et al 1998). Although the gestation period in cavy is long compared to rabbits, for instance, its prolificacy is relatively high, as up to 5 litters can be obtained in one year (Banks 1989; Rico-Numbela and Rivas-Valencia 2003). Several authors have demonstrated that litter size in cavies is greater than 1 kid per litter (Banks 1989; Niba et al 2009; Azine et al 2016b). Niba et al (2009) showed that this rate is higher in young females compared to older ones. In general, 80% of the females give one kid in their first parturition (Fotso et al 1995). The litter size is often said to range from 1 to 7 kids per parturition in cavies (Banks 1989; Cicogna 2000; Hardouin 2004). Under traditional farming conditions (Figure 2), Manjeli et al (1998) determined the incidence of single and twin births with 94% in Cameroon, making larger litters very rare (total range 1 to 4); while Chauca de Zaldívar (1997) found that 74% of parturitions by traditional ‘Criollo’ cavies gave twins and triplets (total range 1 to 5). When reviewing traditional production across all regions of Peru, average litter sizes were between 1.7 and 3.0 (Chauca de Zaldívar 1995). Litters larger than 6 are found to be extremely rare in Peru (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997).

Figure 2. Comparing distribution of litter size (%) of local cavies from surveys of traditional management in Cameroon (N=383 litters
in 65 households; Manjeli et al 1998) and Peru (N, not available; Chauca de Zaldívar 1997), and from a breeding
trial in Cameroon (N=34 offspring from 20 litters; Nuwanyakpa et al 1997) and on-station parturitions
(N=439 firstborn cavies from 207 females; Chauca de Zaldívar 1997) under improved conditions

It is not yet understood for cavies from SSA how much their genetics determine the low average litter sizes observed in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire as opposed to the higher ones in cavies from Gabon and DRC (Table 6, Figure 2). Nevertheless, it is highly likely that there is scope for selection as shown by the breeding success in Peru. Chauca de Zaldívar (1997) demonstrated successful selection for greater prolificacy in the breeds ‘Andina’ (average of 3.2 kids/litter) and ‘Inti’ in Peru.

Litter size varies according to both endogenous and exogenous factors and their interactions (Table 6). This includes the production system, environmental conditions, genetic types, level of inbreeding in the population, parturition number, among others. When developing cheaper feed sources that should not affect productivity by feeding increasing levels of cassava leaf meal (0-12%) to female cavies in Cameroon Mweugang et al (2016), consequently, found no effect on litter size (mean = 1.9). Similarly, Kouakou and Brou (2016) produced no effect on litter size (mean = 1.8) by replacing costly concentrate feed with a cheaper source like fish meal in Côte d’Ivoire. Not only feed and animal health, but also the age of the female may affect prolificacy.

Table 6. Some production factors affecting litter size of cavy in sub-Saharan Africa

Average litter size (no.)





Local cavies from Côte d’Ivoire

Kouakou et al 2012


Local cavies from Cameroon

Nuwanyakpa et al 1997; Manjeli et al 1998


Local cavies from Gabon

Fransolet et al 1994


Local cavies from DRC

Umba et al 2017b

3.0 to 3.6

Records from local Gabon cavy, Belgian cavy and offspring of their cross

Fransolet et al 1994

Breed type    

2.7 to 3.1

Records from offspring (F1, F2) of crossing local Congolese cavy (Bukavu, Kinshasa) and Belgian (pet) cavy

Umba et al 2017b


2.9 to 3.8

When related/unrelated animals are crossed

Cicogna et al 1994

Parturition number    

1.5, 1.9, 2.0

1st, 2nd, 3rd parturition in Cameroon

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995

3.3, 3.5, 3.3

1st, 2nd, 3rd parturition in Gabon

Fransolet et al 1994

1.2 and 1.8

1st and 2nd parturition under traditional management in Cameroon

Manjeli et al 1998

Weaning age of mother    

1.3, 1.3, 1.4 vs. 1.1

Weaning at 21, 16 or 11 days vs. no weaning

Niba et al 2009

Traditional Management    

1.6 to 1.63

In traditional farming system in Cameroon

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Manjeli et al 1998


In traditional farming system in South Kivu

Metre 2012

Controlled conditions    

1.8 to 1.9

On station in Cameroon

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Nuwanyakpa et al 1997


On station in South Kivu

Metre 2012

Type of diet    

1.2 and 1.8

Use of P. maximum or concentrate

Kouakou et al 2012

1.7, 1.8 and 1.9

Diet containing 18, 20 or 22% crude protein during gestation of the mother

Zougou et al 2017


1.4 or 1.0

Vit E or zinc supplement

Todou 2013

Birth weight

Birth weights have been found to range from 44 to 125 g in African cavies, depending on factors such as litter size, order of birth, sex, diet during pregnancy, among others (Table 7). The recommended birth weight should be 70 g or more; with less than 60 g, the young are not viable and usually die during lactation (Fotso et al 1995; Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995; Niba et al 2004b, 2008).

Table 7. Factors affecting birth weight of cavy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Birth weight (g)



Litter size    

60-110 vs. 60-70

1 vs. 2 or more kids per parturition

Ngou Ngoupayou et al 1995

83.8, 81.5, 74.3, or 73.8

Respectively, for 1, 2, 3 or 4 kids per parturition

Manjeli et al 1998

92.9 vs. 73.8

1 vs. 2 kids per parturition

Niba et al 2004b


Males are heavier compared to females


76 (male) vs. 70 (female)

Fransolet et al 1994

79.4 (male) vs. 77.3 (female)

Manjeli et al 1998

88.3 (male) vs. 80.0 (female)

Niba et al 2004b


83.1, 80.9 (F1, F2) vs. 79.7, 72.4 (F1, F2)

Local Congolese (Bukavu x Bukavu) vs. cross (Kinshasa x Belgian)

Umba et al 2017c

Type of diet    

125 vs. 85 (control)

Multi-nutritional block supplement vs. Trypsacum laxum only

Pamo et al 2005

98.6 vs. 54.7

Concentrate feed for rabbits or Panicum maximum only

Kouakou et al 2012

99 vs. 84 (control)

With or without T. diversifolia as a supplement

Zougou 2012

61, 82 and 98

With diet containing 18, 20 or 22% crude protein during gestation of mother

Zougou et al 2017

81.4 or 94.9

Vit E or Zinc supplement

Todou 2013


Weaning weight naturally increases with time of weaning, hence age. Usually, weaning takes place at the age of three weeks. First of all, weaning weight is strongly related to birth weight. The birth weight advantage is maintained not only at weaning but up to 12 weeks of age (Niba et al 2008). Therefore, weaning weight is affected by similar other factors as birth weight. It continues to be higher for males (149.2 g) compared to females (129.5 g) (Niba et al 2008). Single-born cavies are heavier at weaning compared to twin-born ones as observed by Eba (2011) (207 g vs. 194 g, respectively) and Niba et al (2008) (140 g vs. 125 g, respectively). When fed to a basic diet consisting of Guatemala grass ( Trypsacum laxum), cavies supplemented with a multi-nutrient block recorded the best weaning weights (263 g) compared to those that did not receive supplementation (183 g) (Pamo et al 2005). In a P. maximum -based diet supplemented or not with concentrate, Kouakou et al (2012) obtained a clear difference between supplemented cavies (245 g) and the control (95 g). Similar observations have been made by Zougou (2012) when using Tithonia diversifolia as a supplement, with a weaning weight of 159 g for the control vs. 175 g for supplemented cavies. However, cavies fed on Pennisetum clandestinum only (158 g) performed better than those supplemented with vitamin E (126 g) or zinc (142 g) (Todou 2013).

The weaning rate (i.e. the proportion of born kids that reach weaning age per female and per parturition) is generally influenced by management practices and feeding systems. Ngou Ngoupayou et al (1995) observed 84.4% in traditional environment compared to 100% on station. On station, Fotso et al (1995) obtained 87.6, 85.6, and 79.6%, respectively, for the 1 st, 2nd, and 3rd parturition, while Kouakou et al (2012) got 85.7% with a P. maximum-based diet versus 100% when P. maximum was complemented with concentrate.

Comparing African and South American cavy-culture – conclusions and recommendations

In South America, about 35 million cavies are kept with 16,500 tons of meat produced annually (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997). In Peru, the average annual consumption is 65 million heads of cavies (Chauca de Zaldívar 1995, 2000) with monthly exports of more than 1000 frozen animals mostly to the USA, Europe and Japan. Both Ecuador (Abbots 2011; Codesal 2010) and Peru export mainly to the USA; Peru alone was shipping over 20 tons of cavy meat in 2014 (RMR 2017). Cavy culture represents an important economic activity in these countries for both smallholder farmers and larger entrepreneurs (Santos 2007). Productivity is highly associated with improved breeds and great genetic diversity (Chauca de Zaldívar 2007).

In sub-Saharan Africa, there are essentially no national or regional statistics on the dispersal (Hardouin and Stiévenart 1991) and economic importance of cavies. Only in Tanzania, the national cavy population has been estimated at about 600,000 thousand head (NBS 2012). Whereas Maass et al (2014) suggest at least two million cavies in DRC; and Meutchieye et al (unpublished) estimate about 400,000 animals in Cameroon. Productivity remains low compared to improved South American systems. Similarly, the genetic diversity of the SSA cavy population is lower. The current status of cavy culture in South America, however, has been reached after several decades of improving various aspects of production, consumption and perception of the animal (Chauca de Zaldívar 1997, 2007; Maass et al 2016). Despite this discrepancy in African cavy culture compared to the South American one, however, this review indicates the potential of cavy culture to be transformed into an economic activity and, therefore, enhance smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Transferring and adapting knowledge on many aspects from South America to SSA would be powerful to speed up progress in African cavy culture (Maass et al 2016).


We thank the Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub for sponsoring this work through the Cavy Project [Project No. CSI002-GUI] as part of the partnership between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the BecA-ILRI Hub, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Evangelical University in Africa (UEA) is also gratefully acknowledged for covering costs incurred during the compilation of the literature review. T Matthiesen is thanked for sharing photos from her research in Tanzania.


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Received 28 February 2018; Accepted 12 May 2018; Published 1 June 2018

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