From this Associated Press article that we found at Vancouver's 24 Hours, writer Todd Pitman gives us more details.
Better known as cute pets in Western nations, the small rodents could provide war-battered villages with “a much-needed source of protein and micro-nutrients in a country with some of the highest incidences of malnutrition the world,” according to the Colombia-based agricultural research institute, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, or CIAT.
Congo’s hilly east has been plagued by violent turmoil since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide spilled war across the border, displacing millions of people and sparking years of skirmishes between soldiers, rebels and militia from both nations.
It’s not known how or when guinea pigs — native to South America — arrived in Congo, but CIAT researchers discovered them last year being kept as “micro-livestock” in the nation’s hard-hit North and South Kivu provinces, which border Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
“Small and easy to conceal, guinea pigs are well-suited to (Congo’s) conflict zones, where extreme poverty and widespread lawlessness means that the looting of larger domestic livestock is commonplace,” the group said in a statement.
The furry animals have other advantages: they can be fed kitchen waste and are a relatively low-cost investment compared to other livestock. Crucially, they reproduce quickly, with females giving birth to multiple litters that total 10 to 15 offspring per year.