Household determinants of bushmeat and eru (Gnetum africanum) harvesting for cash in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Peri-urban pressure on the Luki Biosphere Reserve in Bas-Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, is fuelled by growing demand in urban markets coupled with easy access. With data from 175 randomly selected households, this paper examines factors that motivate households to collect two major forest products found in the reserve for cash. We analyse the factors determining the choice of engaging in collection of bushmeat and eru (Gnetum africanum) and the factors determining the success (outcome) in collection using the Heckman selection model. This model explicitly separates estimation of selection into the activity from the outcome, to provide unbiased estimates of both. Results show that being local, higher household labour availability and higher asset endowment were positively related to selection into bushmeat hunting, reflecting higher risk-carrying capacities, ease of access to equipment and resources. Greater market distance being a female-headed household and greater age of household heads negatively affected selection into eru collection, reflecting characteristics of cash harvesting activities. Low education and more local knowledge characterised more successful outcome of eru collection, whereas having more household labour tended to lower outcomes of both bushmeat and eru collection suggesting that labour pools engaged in these activities were not sufficiently skilled, or that a higher proportion was consumed in such households. We discuss our findings in relation to the role of these activities in providing a pathway out of poverty and stress the needs for better integration of conservation and development policies.